Chelsea progress to a second successive European final after seeing off an opportunist FC Basel.
Coming to a second leg with a win and two away goals under the belt was always going to make the current Champions League holders the firm favourites, but Salah looked to have a different script, scoring in first-half injury time to claw the aggregate tie back to 2-2.
It was a demolition job in nine second half minutes and the match was killed before the hour mark, as Torres, then Moses, then a spectacular from Luiz ensured Chelsea’s passage. It may not be the premier European competition, but another final, to be played in Amsterdam in 13 days time, is more than a mere consolation.
The omen was on Chelsea to progress. Out of the 125 teams to have won 2-1 away from home in the first leg of this competition’s knock-out ties, 119 have progressed. Coupled that with the fact Chelsea are unbeaten in 12 European home games, Stamford Bridge was looking a fortress.
The talks over the last few days of Mourinho’s imminent return to The Bridge has intensified, but Rafael Benitez was in no mood to work up a sweat. A strong side did not include Juan Mata or John Terry, but still possessed the ever-hungry Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard.
And the home side started off brilliantly. Lampard hit the post, Torres forced a save from Sommer whilst Ramires was also put through by Moses.
Basel had their opportunities also. Streller’s audacious volley was always going to be a dream but it nearly was a reality, only narrowly missing the far post. Salah had the chance as the half neared it end but his shot was straight at Cech.
Going into the break at 0-0 would have been a good score-line, but Basel had other ideas. Salah, who had been testing before, finally made a chance count and steered past Cech into the corner for the last kick of the half. The Blues have now kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 European home games.
Fear not, as Benitez’s half-time team-talk clearly did wonders. Fernando Torres scored within five minutes of the restart. Lampard’s left-foot drive was saved, but the ball fell kindly into the path of the Spaniard to slide home his seventh goal in his last six European home games.
Victor Moses then grabbed the second just two minutes later. This time the Spaniard turned provider, having his shot blocked, but Victor Moses was on hand to tap home.
Luiz then scored the goal of the game. Lampard’s lay off was deft and Luiz had a lot to do from 30 yards, but his first-time left-foot strike swerved in as Sommer could only stare.
5-2 down on aggregate, the life was sucked out of Basel. Frei saw his chance hit the bar, whilst Die was also getting in on the act for mere consolations.
Hazard’s chip proved to be his last contribution as no less Juan Mata entered the fray, displaying glorious touches and passes, but the Chelsea goals were drying up.
Lampard pressed on to search for his record-equalling 202nd Chelsea goal, but that would have to wait for another game yet. Cech was having another day at the office with strong saves, where there were the few and far between Basel chances.
It may not be the heights of Camp Nou reaching Munich, but a final date booked will always go down well.
- FC Basel 1-2 Chelsea (thechelseachronicle.wordpress.com)