Chelsea came into the Europa League semi-final clash with FC Basel of the back of late, unjustified disappointment against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
Whilst Luis Suarez has been handed a 10 match domestic ban for chomping on Branislav Ivanovic, the real injustice I believe most fans felt coming back from Liverpool was that of the additional minute of added on, added on time in which the Uruguayan bagged his equaliser.
Chelsea had the chance to set things right this Thursday, and put a firm foot into the Europa League final in Amsterdam in May.
It took 11 minutes for Chelsea to get into their groove. Moments after Frank Lampard forced a smart save and a corner from Sommer, Victor Moses hammered a header into the ground and the net from the resulting corner. 1-0 and what might be a vital away goal to the champions of Europe.
A case has been made all season, and much placed on the shoulders of Fernando Torres, that Chelsea have not been clinical enough in front of goal and as was the case in Switzerland.
Despite keeping possession well, feeding balls to the flanks and Luiz and Lamps astute in front of the back four, Chelsea couldn’t seem to get the ball in the back of the net. Half time, 1-0.
Basel would hit the post before Hazard rode a challenge before squaring the ball to Torres who could only shake the woodwork soon after half time.
Then came the softest penalty in Europa League’s short history. A ball whipped into the area was missed by both Azpilcueta and Valentin Stocker, who won a penalty for the home side, somehow. No word from the additional assistant, as per. Ridiculous. 1-1.
The Swiss watches must live up to their reputation Ashley Cole was cautioned for ‘time-wasting’. David Luiz then received a yellow stud raised challenge that brought criticism from the Basel bench.
In fair it took an equaliser to kick Chelsea back into 5th gear, who came close through a Juan Mata free kick and a John Terry point-blank header before Ramires won a free kick 25 yards out.
David Luiz, ever the performer, stepped up. 2-1. Poor goalkeeping but a great goal at a great time for Chelsea.
All in all, a great night for the Blues’, who looked composed, confident and cool despite the cauldron atmosphere at the St. Jakob-Park. David Luiz had a great game in front of defence, Hazard dazzled on the ball, and Terry and Ivanovic reforming a partnership again was almost faultless. To take the shine off, my feelings are that Victor Moses still does not have 90 minutes in him, Torres is still isolated on his own, especially when we choose to go long. We played very direct, getting the ball up the park quicker and not needing to commit full backs. The goal we conceded was down to a terrible decision. A very good Basel team did not get behind us once.
The other result in the Europa League was Fenerbache 1 – 0 FC Benfica.
Chelsea have never lost a European semi-final at Stamford Bridge. Basel have never won on English soil. Things are looking good for a little trip to Amsterdam, and our second European trophy in 2 years.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic Cole David Luiz, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Lampard, Moses, Hazard, Torres
Basel: Sommer, Joo-ho Park, Degen, Dragovic, Schar, Geoffroy, Stocker, F Frei, Salah, El-Nenny, Streller
Up the Chels!