Chelsea's David Luiz celebrates after scoring a goal against Basel during their Europa League semifinal second leg soccer match, at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Thursday, May 02, 2013 6:22 pm
Chelsea, Benfica advance to Europa League final
By MATTIAS KARENAP Sports Writer
Chelsea reached its first Europa League final, rallying past Basel 3-1 Thursday night for a 5-2 aggregate win.
Last fall, the Blues became the first reigning Champions League winner to get knocked out in the group stage.
"Really pleased to be there," interim manager Rafa Benitez said. "We've been working so hard through the year to be in a semifinal, final. And now we're in the final. The players really deserve to be there."
Fernando Torres scored one goal and set up another for Chelsea, which will play Benfica at Amsterdam on May 15 in the final of Europe's second-tier club tournament, Benfica won 3-1 at home against Turkey's Fenerbahce to advance on 3-2 aggregate in the home-and-home, total-goals series.
Earlier this season Chelsea lost the final of the Club World Cup along with the European Super Cup and England's Community Shield.
"We have one more opportunity to win a big title," defender David Luiz said. "We have lost three finals this season."
Benitez said he intends to leave after the season, and Chelsea fans made clear they won't miss him, with chants of "Jose Mourinho" ringing out repeatedly at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho was Chelsea's manager from 2004-07 and has hinted he will leave Real Madrid and return to the Blues.
Basel threatened a comeback when Mohamed Salah put the Swiss team ahead in first-half injury time. Torres scored in the 50th minute and helped set up Victor Moses' goal in the 52nd. Luiz curled in a shot from outside the penalty area in the 59th.
The Europa League, known as the UEFA Cup before 2010, is the only major title Chelsea has not won.
Frank Lampard, one shy of Bobby Tambling's record of 202 goals for Chelsea, hit a post with a shot in the eighth minute.
With the game out of reach in the closing minutes, Basel fans saluted their team's run to the semifinals by lighting flares and unfurling flags in the away section, jumping up and down and applauding.
"In the first half we played very good, and I think we caused Chelsea some problems," Basel coach Murat Yakin said. "In the second half, it just went too fast. We made a few mistakes and we were caught out cold."
In Libson, Benfica rallied from a 1-0 loss at Istanbul in the first leg last week and will play its first European final in 23 years.
Nicolas Gaitan scored in the ninth minute, but Dirk Kuyt tied the score in the 23rd with a penalty kick after a hand ball call on Ezequiel Garay. Oscar scored in the 35th and 66th minutes.
"We knew after Istanbul that we were a better team than them overall," Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said. "They didn't create many problems for us."