Chelsea Beats Basel, Will Face Benfica in Europa League Final
Chelsea moved within a victory of a European trophy for the second straight year after it beat Basel 3-1 to reach to the Europa League soccer final against Benfica.
“Credit to the players in the second half,” Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez told ITV. “They were on top of them and we scored three goals. We controlled the game.”
Benfica also won 3-1 at home over Fenerbahce to claim a 3-2 series victory and reach the final of Europe’s second-tier club competition for the first time in 30 years. The title match will be played May 15 in Amsterdam.
Chelsea’s victory gives it the chance to add the Europa League title to last season’s triumph in the Champions League. The Blues dropped into the Europa League this season after being eliminated from the Champions League group stage.
By winning in Amsterdam, Chelsea would become the first team to win Europe’s top two club competitions in reverse order in successive years.
Basel took a 1-0 lead in the match as Mohamed Salah curled a shot past Petr Cech with the final kick of the first half.
Chelsea then broke the game open in a nine-minute span early in the second half.
Torres tied the score with his 20th goal of the season in the 50th minute when he slid in to tuck in the rebound after goalkeeper Yann Sommer stopped Frank Lampard’s shot. Moses scored off another rebound two minutes later to put the Blues up 2-1 and Luiz curled a shot from 25 yards (22 meters) inside the left post in the 59th minute to clinch the victory.
“In the first half we didn’t perform in the best way,” Torres told ITV. “At halftime we agreed about that. We showed the concentration and mentality at the start of the half. We killed the game off.”
The Blues have already lost in the final of the Club World Cup this season, along with the UEFA Super Cup and the English Community Shield.
“We have lost three finals this season,” Luiz said. “We have one more opportunity to win a big title.”
In Lisbon, Oscar Cardozo scored twice to help Benfica reach the final for the first time since 1983, when it lost to Anderlecht when the competition was known as the UEFA Cup.
After a 1-0 loss in the opening match in Turkey, Nicolas Gaitan pulled Benfica even with a goal in the ninth minute. Dirk Kuyt then scored with a penalty kick in the 23rd minute to give Fenerbahce a 2-1 total lead.
Cardozo’s goal in the 35th minute tied the series 2-2 and left Benfica trailing on the away-goals tiebreaker. The Paraguayan then fired a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner midway through the second half to send Benfica to the final.
Chelsea and Benfica have met once before in European competition, with the Blues winning their Champions League quarterfinal matchup last season.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at email@example.com.