Chelsea's run continues
English club sets up final clash with Portugal's Benfica
Chelsea's rollercoaster of a season could yet end with another night of European glory after they knocked FC Basel out of the semifinals on Thursday to set up a Europa League final against Benfica.
Goals from Fernando Torres, Victor Moses and David Luiz in a nine-minute spell early in the second half gave Chelsea a 3-1 second-leg win over the Swiss champions at Stamford Bridge for a 5-2 aggregate success. In the other semifinal, Oscar Cardozo's double fired Benfica past Fenerbahce with a 3-1 win in Lisbon and a 3-2 verdict on aggregate.
Reigning European champions Chelsea, the first holders of the European Cup who failed to advance from the group stage of UEFA's elite club competition, could finish the campaign with the glorious consolation of lifting the Europa League trophy instead. Interim coach Rafa Benitez, who has been unpopular with swathes of the Chelsea faithful after he replaced the sacked Champions League-winning coach Roberto Di Matteo in November, could leave the incoming manager with a trophy to admire.
That man looks increasingly likely to be former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho who dropped more hints about where he would like to be coaching next season after his Real Madrid team were knocked out of the Champions league semifinals on Tuesday. That place is Chelsea and there is no doubt the fans want him back.
As well as applauding their team's efforts on Thursday, they chanted Mourinho's name throughout the match which turned Chelsea's way after Basel went in at the break 1-0 ahead thanks to a goal scored by Mohamed Salah with the last kick of the half.Basel, trailing 2-1 after losing at home in the first leg last Thursday, levelled on aggregate when Salah scored, curling his shot past Chelsea keeper Petr Cech. The opening goal came after a period of Basel pressure and followed a near-miss from Marco Streller who volleyed narrowly wide after 26 minutes.
Chelsea equalised when Torres scored in the 50th minute, powering a rebound off goalkeeper Yann Sommer who failed to hold Lampard's shot. Less than three minutes later, Moses took advantage of a lucky bounce off a Basel defender before Luiz, who scored for Chelsea in the first leg with the last kick of the game, made it 3-1 with a stunning goal that left Sommer totally stranded.
Frank Lampard fired against the post in the ninth minute, while Fabian Frei also rattled Chelsea's bar with a fierce shot midway through the second half.
But in the end Chelsea ran out convincing winners and will head into their fifth European final on May 15 in Amsterdam following their victories in the old European Cup Winners Cup in 1971 and 1998, and their two appearances in the Champions League final which ended in defeat in 2008 and victory last season.