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
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower