CHELSEA are on the verge of reaching a second consecutive European final as manager Rafael Benitez acknowledged the importance of scoring two precious away goals in last night’s semi-final first leg.
Last season’s Champions League winners, playing in their 62nd game of the season and eighth in April, took the lead through Victor Moses but were pegged back by a controversial Fabian Schar penalty.
However, the visitors continued to press and got their reward when David Luiz netted from 25 yards with the last kick of the game to leave Benitez’s Blues on the brink of reaching next month’s Europa League final in Amsterdam.
“It is always important to score an away goal, but to score two and win the game is even better,” he said.
“We played against a good team. The intensity, pace and tempo of the game was good. We had enough chances to score more goals, but it looked as though the penalty would make the difference.
“We were surprised, no-one could see why it was a penalty, it was a strange decision.
“But the team worked very hard and David Luiz did a great job.”
Chelsea edged ahead on 12 minutes when an unmarked Moses headed in Frank Lampard’s outswinging corner from six yards.
Basel came close to levelling three minutes into the second half when Valentin Stocker cut across from the left-flank and his low shot came back off the near post to the relief of goalkeeper Petr Cech, left flat-footed.
Fernando Torres was also denied by the woodwork on 54 minutes, when his snapshot bounced back off the post following excellent work from Eden Hazard.
The Swiss side looked to have done enough to draw on 87 minutes when Schar fired a penalty past Cech, after Cesar Azpilicueta was adjudged to have fouled Stocker, to the bemusement of the visiting players.
But on 94 minutes Chelsea had the final say when Luiz’s free-kick squirmed through the hands of goalkeeper Yann Sommer and into the bottom corner.
Despite appearing to have one foot in the final, Luiz has called on his team-mates to stay grounded and ensure they finish the job at Stamford Bridge next week.
“You need to keep the mind strong because there is one more difficult game for us,” he said. “I want to go to the final so we need to win the second leg or draw.
“It is so important for us to win one more title, for my career and for Chelsea as well.”