Before Thursday’s last-four first-leg, Basel boasted a very impressive home record in this season’s Europa League. Without a loss at home in the entire competition, the Swiss side had high hopes of shutting out Chelsea for the opening tie, but Basel were dealt a late blow as the Blues snatched a winner in injury time to silence the home supporters. Murat Yakin’s men will be very disappointed not to have kept their record intact, as they deserved to get something out of the game. In truth, it was a game of two halves as Chelsea looked the superior side in the opening exchanges while Basel were on top in the second half. With the Blues at home for the second leg, and Basel without a win on English soil in their history, the omens look good for the London-based side. However, the Swiss side won’t give up and Chelsea can’t afford to be complacent next week.
Rafael Benítez’s men put themselves firmly in the driving seat inside 12 minutes as Victor Moses headed the ball past Yann Sommer. It was a crippling blow for Basel who took some time to recover. They looked quite jaded and lacking in intensity for long periods after that and failed to really put Chelsea under any real pressure. Of course, much of the reason for this was the excellent defending on display from Ashley Cole and John Terry, who did extremely well to keep Basel out for so long. Particularly in the second half, it seemed as though the Swiss outfit would never find a way to break through the defensive cover until they were awarded a rather dubious penalty. Valentin Stocker went down in the box following Cesar Azpilicueta’s rather innocuous challenge and Fabian Schar stroked his spot-kick past Petr Cech. If it wasn’t for that generous decision, Basel may never have found the back of the net. Despite flashes of good play, they never simply couldn’t score from open play and ultimately paid the price for their below-par offensive performance.
Following Basel’s equaliser, Chelsea once again sprang into life and began to threaten Sommer’s goal with purpose. Chance after chance fell to Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and John Terry before finally, David Luiz forced home a 94th-minute winner from a free-kick 25-yards out. In truth, although the goal was well-struck, it could easily have been denied if not for some poor goal-keeping from Sommer. He will have been disappointed not to turn the ball away for a corner and keep Basel’s Europa League hopes alive, as the defeat has given Chelsea two vital away goals that Basel will find difficult to reverse at Stamford Bridge. Stocker and Mohamed Salah will need to be in scintillating form if they are to give their side an unexpected win away from home.
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