Chelsea will play Benfica in the Europa League final after a 3-1 comeback win over FC Basel at Stamford Bridge gave them a 5-2 aggregate semi-final win.
Rafael Benitez’s side were leading 2-1 from the away leg in Switzerland but they had a fright when Mohamed Salah finished coolly just before half-time.
But a rampant performance after the break saw the Blues put Murat Yakin’s side to the sword, with Fernando Torres, Victor Moses and David Luiz all scoring in 10 action-packed minutes before the hour mark.
Luiz’s strike was a particular delight, vindicating Benitez’s decision to play him as a midfielder, where his ability on the ball is put to greater effect than his tendency to get caught out of position.
Chelsea now bid to become the first side to win Europe’s secondary club competition the year after claiming the Champions League title, although they have a tough test in Luiz’s former employers Benfica in Amsterdam on May 15.
Basel, meanwhile, miss out on the opportunity to be the first Swiss side in a major European final.
It was a spirited display from Basel, with Salah and Valentin Stocker particularly good, but they fell short of an ultimately too experienced Blues side.
Chelsea had the buffer of a first-leg lead and two away goals, and it showed as they started sluggishly in front of a home fanbase waving banners demanding the return of former boss Jose Mourinho.
Marco Streller half-volleyed just wide in the opening seconds, although Chelsea got their act together as Frank Lampard – chasing Bobby Tambling’s club record – hit the post with a volley after good build-up play, while Torres forced a save from a slipping Yann Sommer.
But while Chelsea were keeping the ball better, Basel looked more convincing at the front end as Streller went agonisingly close to a wonder-goal as he volleyed Markus Steinhoefer’s cross inches past the post.
Chelsea were missing chances – Ramires toe-poking straight at Sommer after a good passing move down the left – but so were Basel, as Salah showed his tendency to lose composure after a first touch, firing at Cech after being sent one-on-one.
But what the raw Egyptian winger-forward lacks in composure, he makes up for with lashings of pace and clever movement, which saw him put the Swiss side ahead on the stroke of half-time.
Stocker’s pass was a beauty but Salah’s off-the-ball run – diagonal, disguised and completely bamboozling Chelsea’s defence – allowed him to sneak past the offside trap: on this occasion he had no time to take a touch or think about his next move, taking the finish first-time as he clipped it past Petr Cech with his left boot.
Chelsea had been guilty of letting the game slip a touch, and conceding at that point may well have been the best thing that happened to them, for they came out all guns blazing for the second half.
With Ramires adopting a more advanced position to harass the Basel defenders at every opportunity, Chelsea were on the front foot now and deservedly equalised when Torres reacted quickest after Sommer did well to parry a Lampard drive, the Spaniard lashing the finish into the roof of the net.
There was barely time to take that in before Chelsea went ahead on the night, Moses finishing at the second time of asking after a Torres shot was blocked into his path.
Chelsea were rampant and Basel on the ropes, the Blues attacking in waves and going 3-1 up before the hour mark as Luiz curled in a wonderful first-time effort with his weaker left foot after a clever touch from Lampard.
Luiz, who scored a late winner in the first leg, has thrived in a midfield position since Gary Cahill’s return from injury, with his role also allowing Ramires to gallop forward with menacing intent.
Basel now needed three goals, which never looked likely, and they knew it as their final half hour was weak at best, aside from a deflected Fabian Frei effort which hit the post.
Eden Hazard almost lobbed Sommer, Torres was denied a tap-in by Fabian Schaer, substitute Juan Mata saw a fierce effort saved by Sommer, who denied Torres again deep into injury time.
But it remained 3-1, which was more than good enough for Chelsea, who go to Amsterdam as narrow favourites to claim a second European title in two years.
MAN OF THE MATCH
David Luiz (Chelsea) – Scored a fantastic goal and made some good interceptions as a defensive midfielder. Has gone from liability to key man under Benitez.
CHELSEA: Cech 7, Azpilicueta 6, Ivanovic 6, Cahill 6, Bertrand 6, Luiz 8, Lampard 7, Ramires 7, Hazard 6, Moses 7, Torres 7; Subs: Oscar 7, Mata 7, Ake N/A.
FC BASEL: Sommer 6, Steinhoefer 7, Sauro 6, Schaer 6, Voser 6, Frei 6, Elneny 6, Serey Die 5, Stocker 7, Salah 7, Streller 6; Subs: Degen 6, Diaz 6, Zoua 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- David Luiz
- Fernando Torres
- FC Basel
- Victor Moses
- Frank Lampard