Thursday 18 January 2018

Luiz strike lights up the Bridge as Chelsea secure another final spot

Chelsea 3 Basle 1 (Chelsea win 5-2 on aggregate)

Henry Winter

Chelsea reached the 12th major Cup final of the Roman Abramovich era when they responded superbly at the start of the second half, scoring through Fernando Torres, Victor Moses and David Luiz, who struck a goal from 25 yards that will live long in the memory of all present.

Now the scramble for flights and boats and trains to Amsterdam on May 15 begins, let alone the fight for tickets. Chelsea fans chanted for Jose Mourinho, but this was a sweet moment for their interim coach, Rafa Benitez. At the end, the DJ played some Madness. Good choice. Frank Lampard and company had gone one step beyond the semi-final.

As Chelsea strolled towards Amsterdam, Frank Lampard's fan club were again out en masse, hoping the club will offer him a new deal, holding up placards proclaiming him "a legend," while the Matthew Harding stand led the chants for their beloved No 8. Lampard wore the armband with John Terry on the bench, possibly with Old Trafford and Sunday in mind.

Within nine minutes, Lampard had broken forward from his midfield slot alongside Luiz, almost scoring to equal Bobby Tambling's club record of 202 goals. Lampard caught the ball well enough, but his shot clipped the post. Terry had mentioned in his programme notes that Tambling had been in to see the players before their pre-match meal for the Swansea game. "He wished us good luck and told Frank that he hoped he went on to beat his record, which was a really nice touch,'' Terry wrote.

It was the closest Chelsea came in the first half crowned by Salah's goal at the end and a contrast to the poaching of Torres, Moses and Luiz early in the second. Until then Chelsea were full of unrequited adventure, much of it emanating from Lampard and inevitably Eden Hazard, again a collection of neat passes and back-heels.

Even before his goal, Moses was busy, starting on the left and occasionally drifting inside. At one point, he was trying to dribble out of trouble with Serey Die snapping at his heels. Three times Die fouled him, and eventually even Jonas Eriksson's patience ended. From the ensuing free-kick, curled in by Hazard, Fabian Schar headed out. Die then dived in on Ryan Bertrand and again Eriksson resisted the temptation to book Die.

Chelsea were largely in control. They had the two away goals but were well aware of Basle's threat on the road, having watched clips of the Swiss at White Hart Lane where they led 2-0 before drawing 2-2. Basle were buoyed by Marco Streller being passed fit and he was a constant threat with his movement and shooting in the first half. When Gary Cahill misjudged an incoming ball, Streller sent a left-footed strike wide.

Chelsea missed some chances, but the rest of the half was dominated by Murat Yakin's lively side and on the cusp of half-time, they struck. Stocker was allowed time to thread the ball through to Salah, who calmly curled it left-footed around Cech and in.

Benitez must have had words at the break. Chelsea emerged a different force. Their tempo was far better. They really went for the Swiss and suddenly the road to Amsterdam opened up wide. When Lampard shot left-footed after a good run by Hazard, Sommer pushed the ball out but there was Torres anticipating well, driving the loose ball into the net. Torres then turned provider. His shot bounced around in the box before Moses took charge, sweeping it home. Chelsea were transformed, adding a third just before the hour.

Chelsea fans were screaming at Lampard to try his luck from 25 yards but he realized Luiz was better placed. He touched the ball towards the Brazilian, whose left-footed shot curled so sweetly between Sommer and his right-hand post.

Chelsea fans kept hoping that Lampard would get that goal. They also saluted some of their new idols, first Hazard when he was removed after another fine contribution to Chelsea's season. Hazard smiled at Mata as he walked towards his replacement, giving him a friendly wink as all around Chelsea gans applauded. Then Benitez removed one of his players on a booking, Luiz, who received a standing ovation.

Basel supporters then dissolved into anger during a surreal moment. The Chelsea stewards were appearing around the side of the pitch, impeding Basel attempts to take a corner. The Basel fans then held up a large flag and lit flares perilously close to it. Through the smoke, there was no mistaking that Chelsea were off to Amsterdam. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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