Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez was satisfied to win 2-1 at Basel in their Europa League semi-final with the aid of two precious away goals.The Spaniard questioned the dubious late penalty awarded to Basel but was unwavering in his praise for David Luiz, who put Chelsea back ahead with a stoppage-time free kick.
A last-minute David Luiz strike earned Chelsea a crucial 2-1 victory over Basel in the sides' UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg clash.
Both teams looked dangerous in possession throughout an evenly contested game but it was the visitors who were able to turn that threat into chances as they scored from their first attack courtesy of a Victor Moses header from a Frank Lampard corner.
It seemed likely that Chelsea would come away without a win when Cesar Azpilicueta gave away a late penalty for a foul on Valentin Stocker and Fabian Schar made no mistake from 12 yards. However, the game would take a further twist as Luiz slammed in a free-kick with seconds remaining.
After a fairly even start Chelsea grabbed a crucial away goal when Moses somewhat unwittingly headed in a 12th-minute corner. In the build-up to the goal Yann Sommer saved brilliantly from Lampard, but there was nothing he could do from the resulting set-piece as the Nigerian forward flicked a header in behind the jumping Branislav Ivanovic.
Five minutes later the home side came close to an equaliser as Schar stung the hands of Petr Cech with a long range effort. The Swiss defender fired a 25-yard free-kick over the Chelsea wall but the visitors' Czech goalkeeper saw it coming and was able to touch it over the crossbar.
Basel continued to press for an equaliser in the first half and stretched the Chelsea defence on a number of occasions, but their final delivery lacked quality and Cech was not called into action with regularity.
Two minutes after the break Basel came within inches of equalising through Stocker but the midfielder was denied by the woodwork. He drifted past the challenges of Lampard and Luiz on the edge of the area before pulling a shot past Terry, but the ball struck the foot of Cech's right-hand post and rebounded to safety.
Six minutes later it was the visitors' turn to be denied by the post as Fernando Torres saw his close-range shot crash into the woodwork. Eden Hazard glided past the challenges of two Basel defenders before playing the perfect pass to the Spaniard inside the penalty area but his first-time shot could not beat the frame.
With four minutes to go Basel were given a lifeline as Azpilicueta was adjudged to have fouled Stocker inside the penalty area. The decision looked harsh on the Spanish full-back but Schar made sure Rafael Benitez's side paid by rifling the ball beyond Cech to seemingly earn his side a draw.
However, Luiz had other ideas as he brilliantly curled home a free-kick in the last minute to hand the advantage to Chelsea ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres wants to stay at Stamford Bridge for 'at least' another three years, despite speculation he could leave the club.The Spain international arrived in January 2011 for a well-publicised 50 million pounds, but he has never been able to reproduce the form he had previously shown at Liverpool, for whom he scored 81 goals in 142 matches.
Basel coach, Murat Yakin, has called on his side to 'dominate' proceedings ahead of his side's Europa League semi-final first-leg tie against Chelsea.The Swiss club knocked out Chelsea's fellow English Premier League club Chelsea in the last round and the former defender hopes his side will take as much confidence from that success as him.
Chelsea will welcome back Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill into their squad for tomorrow night's Europa League tie with FC Basel after both recovered from injuries.Both defenders have travelled with the team and Chelsea confirmed on their website that the pair are in the 19-man squad to face the Swiss champions.
Chelsea will be flying the flag for England when they go away to Basel in their UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday.English Premier League teams Tottenham and Newcastle United both bowed out at the quarter-final stage, leaving Chelsea as the country's sole representative in the last four.
Former Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux believes winning the UEFA Europa League is vital for Chelsea this season.The west London club face a semi-final against Swiss club Basel, who eliminated Tottenham Hotspur in the quarter-finals, for a place in the tournament decider.
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez believes the club can be 'really pleased' with their current domestic and European performances.Benitez takes his side to Wembley on Sunday to face Manchester City for a place in the final of the FA Cup while a semi-final fixture with Basel is the only obstacle between the Blues and the Europa League final.
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|25-04||Torres commits to Chelsea|
|24-04||Basel´s Yakin looking to ´dominate´ Chelsea|
|24-04||Chelsea welcome back Cole and Cahill for Basel tie|
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|20-04||Le Saux wants Chelsea to prioritise Europa League|
|12-04||Benitez pleased with Chelsea season|