London - Chelsea reached the Europa League final for the first time in their
history after surviving a first-half scare to defeat Swiss champions FC
Basel 3-1 in the second leg of their semi-final on Thursday.
2-1 from last week's first leg in Switzerland, Chelsea risked
elimination after Mohamed Salah's well-taken goal in first-half injury
time put the visitors 1-0 up on the night.
But goals from Fernando
Torres and Victor Moses and a David Luiz stunner early in the second
half gave last season's Champions League winners a thumping 5-2 aggregate victory
that sets up a meeting with Benfica in the final on May 15.
was a case of third time lucky for Chelsea, who lost in the semi-finals
in both the League Cup and the FA Cup, while Basel fell short in their
attempt to become the first Swiss team to reach a major European final.
interim manager Rafael Benitez will now look to end a testing season by
claiming the second Europa League title of his career after his 2004
success with Valencia, although his immediate priority is to secure a
return to the Champions League via the league.
Basel captain Marco
Streller passed a late fitness to start at Stamford Bridge and he
almost made an immediate impression, shooting wide from a good position
in the first minute.
Chelsea's fans had just taken to serenading
former coach Jose Mourinho, who has been linked with a return to the
club this week, when the hosts' first chance arrived in the ninth
Torres's clipped pass freed Frank Lampard, but his shot
came back off the post, leaving the England midfielder one goal behind
Bobby Tambling in the club's all-time scoring chart on 201 goals.
then came close to claiming an outrageous goal at the other end with a
volley from a prohibitive angle that flashed wide, before Ramires could
only poke the ball at visiting goalkeeper Yann Sommer from Moses's low
Basel continued to attack gamely, and after being thwarted
once by Petr Cech, Salah broke the deadlock in stoppage time when he
calmly swept home from Valentin Stocker's cleverly disguised through ball.
The Egyptian's strike left Basel one goal from the final,
but Chelsea reasserted their grip on the tie with a rapid three-goal
salvo in the first 14 minutes of the second half.
the first, in the 49th minute. After a driving run from Eden Hazard,
Lampard's low shot was pushed out by Sommer and Torres slid in to slam
the loose ball into the roof of the goal.
Moses put Chelsea ahead
three minutes later with another finish from close range, this time
after Torres's low shot was deflected into his path.
Luiz saved the
best for last just before the hour, stepping up to Lampard's lay-off
and curling a majestic left-foot shot right into the top-left corner
from 25 yards.
Basel's response saw Fabian Frei hit the bar with a
deflected shot, while Marcelo Diaz also tested Cech with an effort from
distance, but for Chelsea, the worst had already passed.
might even have amplified their lead further in the dying stages, but
Sommer saved well from substitute Juan Mata and Torres.
emerged victorious from a dramatic last-four tie against Fenerbahce,
with a 3-1 win at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon giving them a 3-2
Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo was the hero
with two expert finishes either side of the interval after a Dirk Kuyt
penalty had cancelled out Nicolas Gaitan's opener for the Portuguese
Benfica are through to their first continental final since
1990, when they were beaten 1-0 by AC Milan in the European Cup final.
Europa League semi-final second-leg results on Thursday:
Chelsea (ENG) 3 (Torres 50, Moses 52, David Luiz 59) Basel (SUI) 1 (Salah 45+1)
Chelsea win 5-2 on aggregate
Benfica (POR) 3 (Gaitan 9, Oscar Cardozo 35, 66) Fenerbahce (TUR) 1 (Kuyt 23-pen)
Benfica win 3-2 on aggregate
Chelsea and Benfica will meet in the final in Amsterdam on Wednesday, May 15