Chelsea 3 Basel 1 match report: Chelsea back in familiar territory after reach Europa League final despite season of upheaval

Chelsea win 5-2 on aggregate

Stamford Bridge

The banner on the Shed End still proclaims #RAFAOUT, the supporters sing for Jose Mourinho or Roberto Di Matteo and yet, at the club where nothing stays the same for long and conflict seems eternal, it will be Rafa Benitez who leads Chelsea into the Europa League final a week on Wednesday.

The manager no-one wanted. The competition no-one cared about. The season that looked like it could be a train wreck in December, now delivers the fifth European final in the club’s history. It could yet end in more recriminations if Benitez does not deliver the club a top four finish and Champions League football next season but from where Chelsea stand right now the picture does not look too bad.

It will potentially be the 11th major honour in ten years of the Roman Abramovich regime and an appropriately bonkers finale – although the final is not the last game of the season – to another madcap season at Stamford Bridge. No club has quite perfected the art of mining trophies from seasons of managerial sackings and general mid-term chaos, like Chelsea.

Although nothing will quite top last year’s Champions League triumph under Di Matteo, this season is building to another crescendo. No English club has won European trophies in consecutive seasons since Nottingham Forest completed back-to-back European Cup wins in 1980. It is only the Europa League but it is not as if any other English club are still flying the flag in European competition.

Benitez’s team play Manchester United on Sunday and Tottenham on Wednesday – two games that will go a long way to dictating whether they qualify for the Champions League next season. So much can still change, and over it all hangs the question of who will succeed Benitez, of more pertinently whether it will be Mourinho. This club remains the show that you simply cannot tear your eyes away from.

Chelsea will play Benfica in the final in Amsterdam in 12 days’ time, the same club they beat in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season. For most of the club’s support, the opposition to Benitez’s appointment will never change even if he dares follow his players on their victory lap in Amsterdam should they win the final. No-one said this was simple.

Chelsea’s opponents in the final are the former club of David Luiz and Ramires, and it was Luiz who scored the goal that reminded everyone that Chelsea and Basle who really belong to two different worlds. That was the third of three goals in the space of nine minutes before the hour that put the tie beyond the Swiss club’s reach.

Behind in the first half to Mohamed Salah’s goal in time added-on, Chelsea finally remembered that they are essentially a Champions League club serving an exile in the Europa League and raised the quality of their performance to a level which Basle simply could not live with.

Benitez picked a team that did not include John Terry, who had played the previous two games before last night and it will be interesting to see if the captain starts the final. He famously missed the Champions League final last season through suspension and it will be a big call either way whether he plays in Amsterdam, although you can expect Benitez to make it without any reference to sentiment.

There were enough chances for Chelsea to break Basle’s spirit in the first half and put this tie comfortably out of sight but through bad luck and their own failings in front of goal they failed to do so and with almost the last kick of the first half, the Swiss side scored.

It would have been different if Frank Lampard’s volley into the ground that bounced up and struck Yann Sommer’s right post had gone in. The ball had come to him from Fernando Torres’ nicely weighted, lofted ball over the Basle defence. You could see from the way Lampard pushed on late in the game, long after it was won, that he is taking nothing for granted in pursuit of the goal that will put him level with the club-record of 202.

Petr Cech was first obliged to make a good save coming out to meet Salah when the dangerous Valentin Stocker played the Egyptian striker in on goal. Then, in time added on at the end of the half, it was Stocker’s ball again through a very square, static Chelsea back four that Salah ran onto and curled, left-footed, beyond the reach of Cech.

It was, all told, a marvellous response from Chelsea in the first 15 minutes of the second half. The first goal came from Torres, a well-anticipated tidy-up job from a few yards out. Hazard, who was excellent last night, drove forward from midfield to create a shooting chance for Lampard and the save from Sommer was careless. He allowed the ball to roll across his goal to Torres.

Two minutes later the second arrived. This time it was Moses coming in from the left, a return ball from Torres and when the latter’s first shot was blocked by Fabian Schar the rebound fell nicely for Moses to score. Now they were feeling unstoppable and nothing articulated their many and varied assets more than Luiz’s wonderfully struck third goal.

It was Lampard who checked himself with the ball on the edge of the box and played it back to the Brazilian, who curled a shot with his left foot with enough draw to bring its flight from outside the goal to rest inside Sommer’s right post 

That was it for Basel, although Fabian Frei did hit the bar with a later shot. Terry never did get a run-out at the end, Benitez giving Nathan Ake his fourth senior appearance instead. At Chelsea, they are accustomed to this kind of success but winning trophies never loses its appeal. Amid all the upheavals, you could argue that success like this has been the one constant of the Abramovich years. For ten days later this month, they could be the holders of the Champions League and the Europa League. Not bad at all.

Cardozo fires Benfica to final

Benfica booked a final date with Chelsea after overcoming a stubborn Fenerbahce 3-1 at the Stadium of Light, progressing 3-2 on aggregate.

Nicolas Gaitan flicked the hosts ahead after nine minutes, only for Dirk Kuyt to equalise for Fenerbahce from the spot. Oscar Cardozo levelled the scores on aggregate 10 minutes before half-time and then added the all-important third half-way through the second half to confirm Benfica's Amsterdam date.

James Mariner

Five stars: Chelsea's European finals

1971: Cup-Winners' Cup

Peter Osgood scored in a 1-1 draw and in the replay in Athens as Dave Sexton's side beat Real Madrid 2-1.

1998: Cup-Winners' Cup

Gianfranco Zola's goal within seconds of coming on as a sub earned a 1-0 win over Stuttgart in Stockholm.

2008: Champions League

John Terry slipped up and Didier Drogba was sent off as Avram Grant's side lost on penalties to Manchester United in a Moscow monsoon.

2012: Champions League

Drogba equalised Thomas Müller's opener for “hosts” Bayern Munich before Arjen Robben had an extra-time penalty saved. Drogba then clinched a 4-3 shootout win.

...and No 5: Benfica v Chelsea

Wednesday 15 May, 7.45pm Amsterdam, ITV

Man of the match Hazard.

Match rating 7/10.

Referee J Eriksson (Swe).

Attendance 39,403.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...