Defender David Luiz’s last gasp free kick gave Chelsea a crucial 2-1 over FC Basel here in Switzerland. The Brazilian’s free kick which was virtually the last kick of the game gave the Blues a win over the side who are known to outwit English sides in Europe. Basel had earlier eliminated Manchester United last season in the Champions League and came into the game beating Tottenham Hotspur in the quarter finals. The Swiss side who were appearing to have snatched a draw after a converting from the spot following dubious penalty decision awarded to the home side in the 87th time.
Victor Moses had earlier given the Blues the lead in the 12th minute following a Frank Lampard corner. Interim manager Rafa Benitez recalled Ashley Cole in the left back position as the English defender returned from injury after three weeks. Another Englishman who was also making his comeback from the rehab centre, Gary Cahill was on the bench. Cesar Azpilicueta started in right back with Ivanovic and John Terry in the centre of defence. Benitez started David Luiz in the holding role, a decision in the end which proved to be amasterstroke and paid rich dividends.
Eden Hazard was more a handful for the home side to control as Chelsea dominated the game for most of the first half and Basel were lucky not to concede more goals at home. Fabian Schar’s spotkick leveled the score on the night three minutes before normal time was about to end. It was then deep into three minutes of injury time that Luiz made his impact with a low free kick that gave Chelsea the win on the night. Rafa Benitez however blasted the penalty decision saying, “’I think it was a deserved win. We played against a good team, you could see the intensity and the pace of the game but we had enough chances to score and the penalty, which was a surprise for everyone, could have made a difference.” With the second leg at Stamford Bridge in a week’s time, Chelsea now look favourites to travel to Amsterdam for the final. Rafa Benitez will leave the Stamford Bridge club in the summer but the Spaniard’s love affair with Europe continues.
Elsewhere in the other semi-final, Fenerbahce finally prevailed through a 72nd-minute Egemen Korkmaz goal to procure a 1-0 advantage ahead of the second leg in Portugal. Korkmaz headed home powerfully from a corner at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium to give Aykut Kocaman`s hosts a slim victory as they bid to reach their first ever European final. The home side had earlier hit the woodwork three times before the goal much to the dismay of the home set of fans. But Benfica know the tie is far from over as the Portuguese giants are almost unassailable at home and are more than capable of turning things around in the second leg at home. It’s poised even at Portugal, so it’s tough to predict who might go through.