By DAN KARELL
Chelsea were facing a trip back to London with another draw after conceding a late goal. Fortunately for them, defender David Luiz had other ideas.
The Brazilian struck a free kick in the 94th minute through the opposition wall and into the net, giving Chelsea a thrilling 2-1 victory over FC Basel on Thursday night in Europa League semifinal action from Basel. In the other Europa League semifinal match, Fenerbahce defeated Benfica 1-0 in Istanbul.
Chelsea made a number of changes from their draw against Liverpool on Sunday, bringing in John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, and Victor Moses into the starting eleven, a move that paid early dividends.
Making the most of his starting place in the team, Moses sent a header off a corner kick from Frank Lampard into the back of the net in the 12th minute, giving his side the lead and a crucial away goal.
Basel forward Valentin Stocker hit the post just after halftime, as did Chelsea target man Fernando Torres in the 54th minute. Finally, it was a penalty in the 87th minute that helped get Basel on the board, with Fabian Schär sending Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech the wrong way to level the scoreline.
But in the 94th minute, Luiz came up big for his club, slotting home a free kick from nearly 30 yards away into the far post past the diving clutches of Basel goalkeeper Yann Sommer. Chelsea now return to London for next week’s second leg with a sizable advantage thanks to the two away goals.
Benfica on the other-hand will be glad to return home down just one goal. Playing at home, Fenerbahce created all kinds of chances, hitting the crossbar and post on two occasions as well as missing a penalty in the 45th minute.
In the 72nd minute the Turkish club finally got on the board, when defender Egemen Korkmaz headed a ball off the crossbar that crossed the line before being cleared away by Benfica. Cristian Baroni, who missed the earlier penalty, sent in the corner kick which ended up in the net, making up for his prior mistake.
What did you make of these matches? Do you see Chelsea holding off Basel at home? Do you believe Benfica can win the tie? Who do you see in the Final next month?
Share your thoughts below.