Chelsea vs. Basel: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Chelsea fans can now make plans to visit Amsterdam for the Europa League final.
The Blues beat the Swiss club in the second leg of the Europa League semifinal match, 3-1, and the home side now takes a 5-2 aggregate win into the tournament final next week.
The home side's official Twitter account helped break the news when extra time was completed:
FULL TIME: CHELSEA 3-1 BASEL (5-2 agg) #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) May 2, 2013
What had the makings of a Basel upset by halftime at Stamford Bridge turned into a Chelsea massacre in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Fernando Torres, Victor Moses and David Luiz all had goals when the second period began to put the dagger in Basel by the match's end.
Basel got things going at the end of the first half when Valentin Stocker slid a nifty pass ahead to Mohamed Salah in the box, and he had no trouble putting it past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech for a pivotal away goal for the visiting side.
After the review and discussion between the referees confirmed the goal, Basel took momentum and an important goal into the locker room as chants for Jose Mourinho grew louder at Stamford Bridge.
Not so fast, said Rafa Benitez and his resilient club.
The Blues came out as a different team in the second half, kicking up pressure on the attack and finding a way to get three quick goals (50', 52', 59') to completely take Basel out of the running for the Europa League upset on Thursday afternoon.
Chelsea's 3 goals in 9 minutes (50' 52' 59') vs FC Basel are the fastest 3 goals in a half by a team in CL or EL main tournament this season— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) May 2, 2013
Torres was the first Blues player to score as he took a rebound off a Frank Lampard shot and found the net to help the home side take a big step toward avoiding the upset. He found the net for the fifth time in his last five EL games and the 20th time this season.
Moses soon followed with a goal of his own from a Torres pass (his fourth goal in his last four matches), and David Luiz added a third goal with a downright nasty bender that you'll be seeing on highlight films for quite some time.
Chelsea had a fantastic plan to keep Basel at bay.
Striker Marco Streller got loose early on, but Benitez's plan to keep him from having any space and forcing the issue with the Blues' own attack was key in keeping Basel from picking up that all-important second road goal on Thursday.
The first score in the opening half was certainly a dejection for captain Lampard and his team in the bid for the Europa League final, but the opening minutes of the second half proved to be a completely different squad with title dreams still intact.
But, as noted by BBC's Phil McNulty, little recognition was heaped on Benitez from the Stamford Bridge crowd. As the summer transfer window approaches, things heat up for both player and coaching changes, so the Blues' faithful still have it out for the head man:
Rafael Benitez on the brink of taking Chelsea to the Europa League Final & not a flicker of recognition for him. Just more Mourinho chants.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) May 2, 2013
The only thing Chelsea might have been able to do differently to help make this one of the most successful days in franchise history was get Lampard his 202nd goal as a member of the Blues. He had a chance in the opening minutes, but he hit the post and didn't manage to get it during his most-recent Stamford Bridge visit (h/t BBC Sport):
CLOSE! Frank Lampard goes agonisingly close to equalling Bobby Tambling goal record for Chelsea, hitting the post with a shot. #cfc— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 2, 2013
With a suffocating second half sandwiched around missed chances in the first, there are both positives and negatives to take away from Chelsea's Europa League win on Thursday.
Right now, though, Blues faithful are just happy to be in the final where Benfica awaits after taking down Fenerbahce on Thursday afternoon.
David Luiz, Chelsea: A-
Luiz had the goal of the year for the Blues (see above GIF again if you don't believe me), but his play in the middle of the field was key to keeping the ball on the Basel side for most of the afternoon.
Apart from his dagger before the 60-minute mark, Luiz kept a good place in the back half of the defending part of the field and helped the Blues contain Streller, at that.
Valentin Stocker, Basel: B+
Stocker was involved in the only Basel goal of the day as his beautiful split-pass in the box helped the away side gather a 1-0 lead before halftime.
He was also active in possession and tried to force the issue when Basel needed three more goals to do anything close to advancing but was unable to help the team overcome such an insurmountable deficit in the late stages of the second half.
Basel has nothing to be ashamed of after a deep Europa League run, and Stocker helped them almost knock down the door with his play on Thursday.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea: A
Hazard was really the best player on the pitch in all facets of the game against Basel. His setup pass to Lampard led to Torres' equalizing goal, and he made the Basel defense look silly with his ball skills and attacking prowess.
He came off in favor of Mata in the final stages of the game and rightly so—Chelsea will need him to again be one of the on-the-field leaders for Benitez's attack if they want to get past Benfica in the final.
Yann Sommer, Basel: C+
Sommer was the victim of his defense in this one but actually managed to make a couple of key saves that helped the final score seem less overbearing than it could have been.
However, he slipped down on Torres' goal in the start of the second half after being unable to handle Lampard's shot fully, and the rest of the match was all downhill from there.
Sommer doesn't get full blame for his efforts, but giving up the three-straight goals at the start of the second half was the final nail in the coffin for Basel in this one. If he could have held on to the Lampard shot, this might have been a different outcome.
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