Late Winner

David Luiz points to the heavens after scoring a late winner.

In the end, from the final kick of the night, Chelsea got what they deserved – a late win.

David Luiz’ free-kick, through the Basel wall and the grasp of keeper Yann Sommer, left the watching tennis superstar Roger Federer to groan as the ball creeped into the net.

On a night when the Blues rediscovered some of their old qualities – desire and determination – it still needed a little bit of fortune as Luiz narrowed through a gap that should not have been there.

Last season’s Champions League winners went in front from a corner kick when Branislav Ivanovic won a header which went in off Victor Moses. Fabian Schaer forced Petr Cech to tip his deflected free-kick over the bar, but it was a rare threat from the home side.

The visitors should have scored again before half-time with Fernando Torres striking the cross-bar. Ramires was played in by Frank Lampard and made keeper Yann Sommer save by diving low to his right. The next best chances fell to Belgian winger Eden Hazard, who missed twice in the 44th with clear shooting chances in the Basel penalty area. With those failed attempts at putting a strangle hold on the game, Chelsea endured a wave of pressure from the home side in the second-half.before

Cesar Azpilicueta was adjudged to have fouled Valentin Stocker in the penatly box. Schar stepped up and converted in the 87th-minute to tie the game.

Swiss tennis superstar Roger Federer was seen in the stands, cheering on his home team.

After finally putting themselves on the score board, the home fans busted into celebrations. However their joy was to be silenced a mere four minutes later. Luiz carefully placed his low free kick instead of firing with his trademark power, and eluded Sommer’s late dive.

The second leg continues next week; as the winner of that match will go on to face the winner of Fenerbahce and Benfica. The Europa League final will be played in Amsterdam on May 15th, with Chelsea just 90 minutes away from punching their ticket into the finals.

In the meantime, the Blues have an important game this weekend in the Premier League, as we near the end of the season and the battle for a top-four finish continues.

For match highlights click the link below

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Limping into the Semi’s

Fernando Torres (right) is congratulated by teammates after scoring the opening goal.

The Blues made hard work of their progression into the final four of the Europa League, with a disorganized second-half performance allowing Rubin Kazan back into the game, despite leading twice on the night.

Chelsea appeared to be cruising after goals by Fernando Torres and Victor Moses gave them a 2-1 lead after 55 minutes and a 5-2 aggregate cushion. However, sloppy defending gave goals to Gekdeniz Karadeniz and Bibras Natcho, and Chelsea was hanging on for the final 15 minutes.

Torres, who scored twice in last week’s 3-1 first-leg win, struck after four minutes. Frank Lampard showed remarkable vision to send Torres clear with a clinical first-time lob pass. With goalkeeper Sergei Ryzhikov racing out of his goal, the masked Spaniard coolly lobbed the ball into the empty net for his 19th goal of the season. The ball almost bounced over the cross bar on the artificial pitch, but just dipped in time.

However, the second half was a completely different story, as a spark lit under the home side team. Rubin took the game to Chelsea after the break and leveled when Ivan Marcano headed in a right-wing cross after 51 minutes. Moses restored the Blues lead following a neat one-two on the edge of the penalty box with Ramires.

Karadeniz made it 2-2 on the night with another close-range header before the Russian side converted a 75th-minute penalty through Natcho after Cesar Azpilicueta was seen to have pushed substitute Alexander Ryazantsev. Thankfully, the Blues held on till the final whistle to eliminate the Russian side from the competition.

Chelsea will now wait until tomorrow morning for the drawings, to find out which team they will go against in the next round. But the Blues have little time to celebrate, as they must travel back to London to square off against Manchester City on Sunday morning, in semi-final action in the FA Cup.

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Off to Russia

Fernando Torres (right) celebrates with teammate Yossi Benayoun after scoring the opening goal.

Chelsea are in good shape heading to Kazan in the Europa League after building a two-goal lead at home in the first leg. Rubin Kazan has a bit of hope after notching a first-half away goal, but the Blues are very much in the driver’s seat after their 3-1 victory.

Fernando Torres scored Chelsea’s first and third goals. Wearing a black mask to protect his broken nose, Torres bundled in Chelsea’s opener in the 16th minute after bringing down David Luiz’s long field pass and poking the ball home while under pressure on the ground.

In the 32nd minute, Victor Moses doubled Chelsea’s lead with a superb shot into the top corner. Sergei Ryzhikov did a poor job of clearing a ball away and it eventually made its way around to Torres who took a shot, only to see the rebound fall for Moses to finish from the edge of the penalty area. Rubin pulled a goal back just before halftime from a penalty shot because of a handball by John Terry. Bibras Natcho stepped up and converted, grabbing a valuable away goal.

But the home side never looked like backing down. Chelsea pressed for a third goal from the beginning of the second half and went close on a couple of occasions, and was finally rewarded in the 70th minute. A quick counter led to a Juan Mata cross into the center of the box for Torres, who rose up and powered an impressive header past Ryzhikov.

The second leg takes place on April 11th when Chelsea travel to Russia. With this victory, Chelsea is one win away from entering the semifinals. In the meantime, Chelsea returns back to Premier League action tomorrow morning when they take on Sunderland. With Arsenal winning their game today, the pressure is on Chelsea as the race to finish into the top four heats up.

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Not Letting Go

Demba Ba stretches to volley a superb goal.

This was the match nobody wanted to play. Limping into an already busy fixture list, Chelsea’s love affair with the FA Cup continued when a brilliant goal by Demba Ba gave them a 1-0 win over Manchester United in a sixth-round replay at Stamford Bridge today. The win helped maintained their incredible record of not losing an FA Cup game at home for 10 years.

Chelsea, the current title holders of the FA Cup, showed that they don’t tend to let go of their trophy that easily. In the past few years, Chelsea has dominated this competition, winning four times in the last six years.

The opening half hour was fairly even, as both teams came out pressing. Chelsea was forced into an early substitution as Ashley Cole suffered a hamstring problem 21 minutes in. Reports are saying he is to miss up to two weeks, which is a big loss for the Blues defensive line.

The match came to life four minutes into the second half when Ba, drifting free of his marker, allowed a chipped ball from Juan Mata to sail over his shoulder before stretching to volley it into the far corner beyond a helpless David De Gea.

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech produced a thrilling save at the opposite end 14 minutes later. Mexican striker Javier Hernandez seemed bound to equalize with a diving header but Cech performed a backward twisting dive to palm the ball over the bar.

With wasted chances by the likes of Hazard and Mata, Chelsea held on to produce the perfect response to Saturday’s loss at Southampton. They now advance to face Manchester City in the semifinals on April 14th.

With just two days of rest, Chelsea now turn their attention to their Europa League quarterfinal on Thursday against FC Rubin Kazan.

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Saints march over the Blues

Rickie Lambert celebrates after restoring the lead for his team.

Two weekends ago, Chelsea put in a near perfect performance against West Ham. The team played with swagger and purpose, carrying a threat every time they assumed possession. Fast-forward a fortnight and the men in Blue were unrecognizable, both in personnel and performance, as they slumped to defeat.

When the teams were announced on Saturday, Southampton must have been rubbing their hands together with glee at the thought of facing the Chelsea lineup Rafael Benitez had put out. With an FA Cup quarterfinal replay against Manchester United following just two days later—and also taking Thursday’s Europa League clash with Rubin Kazan into consideration, something had to give for the Blues, and this match was it.

Benitez saw his hopes of steering Chelsea back into the Champions League suffer a serious blow as Southampton claimed another Premier League victory with a 2-1 win Saturday. Rickie Lambert celebrated his new Southampton contract extension in some style by curling an exquisite free kick to secure all three points from a hard-fought encounter.

From opening kickoff, the home side went full throttle with their attack. Saints had gone ahead through another in-form striker Jay Rodriguez, who collected a neat one-two from Steven Davis before slotting home in the 23rd minute.

John Terry was allowed to level unmarked from a corner 10 minutes later, only for Saints to hit back immediately through Lambert’s fine strike. Making his 500th career league appearance, the Englishmen curled home a spectacular 25-yard free-kick to rack up his 14th league goal of the campaign — more than any other English player in the Premier League.

Chelsea peppered the Southampton goal throughout the second half but was unable to find a way past substitute goalkeeper Kelvin Davis, leading to a defeat that drops Chelsea to fourth in the standings.

Chelsea will have little time to dwell on their performance, as they kick back into action tomorrow afternoon against a much tougher opponent – Manchester United. The winner of tomorrow’s FA Cup match faces off against Manchester City in the semifinals.

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Mr. 200

Frank Lampard opens the scoring by heading in his 200th Chelsea career goal.

Frank Lampard rises up to open the scoring.

In Premier League action yesterday, as Tottenham slipped Chelsea took full advantage. Frank Lampard scored his 200th Chelsea goal as the Blues climbed to third in the league with victory over his old club in the London derby at Stamford Bridge. With his goal he moved to within two goals of the all-time club record and added further roars by fans calling for a new contract. He has set his sights on Bobby Tambling’s club record of 202 set in the 1960s and 1970s, and has enough time left to reach that target before his contract comes to an end this season.

Just 19 minutes in, Lampard opened the scoring by rising to meet Eden Hazard’s chipped ball and head past goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen into the top corner. As he was mobbed by teammates during celebrations, the touching moment was spoiled by traveling fans. West Ham fans appeared to throw coins at Lampard after he scored, but failed to hit the midfielder.

Yet that hostile moment was not to ruin any momentum the Blues were generating. With neat passing and a tight defensive display, Chelsea controlled the rest of the game with absolute ease. Striker Demba Ba should have scored three times in the first half, but displayed poor finishing touches in front of goal. Luckily Chelsea was not to be punished by those missed attempts.

In the first half West Ham rarely threatened, as Andy Carroll had a goal disallowed for a push in the back on David Luiz. Soft call in my opinion, but that was the closest the visitors got all night. Just five minutes into the second half the lead was doubled as Hazard completed a neat interplay with Juan Mata, as the winger has been an integral part of a successful week for Chelsea. Mata and Hazard consistently linked up in exquisite fashion, and a goal was inevitable. The Belgian went past Winston Reid and James Collins before shooting left-footed and low into the bottom corner.

Eden Hazard celebrates after putting his side up 2-0.

Just as the Blues begin to build any momentum; it will be halted with the international break. For the next two weeks players will be sent home to play for their national teams as world cup qualifiers get underway. Chelsea’s next game isn’t till the end of March, as their schedule pile up takes a hit with three games being played over the course of just seven days.

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Rally at the Bridge

Fernando Torres looks up to the heavens after scoring the game winner.

In a week dominated by comebacks discussed in the sport of soccer, Chelsea was once again placed with their backs against the wall in a matter of days. This time, Fernando Torres emerged as Chelsea’s bloody hero on a frantic night when the struggling striker finally found the net and got a nosebleed. For 20 minutes, fueled by the rage of a boot in the face by Steaua Bucharest’s Lukasz Szukala as he lay on the turf, Torres was brilliant, like a man possessed.

The Blues headed into the second leg needing to overturn a 1-0 deficit. But goals from Juan Mata, John Terry and Fernando Torres sealed progression despite a Vlad Chiriches strike on the stroke of halftime.

After a fairly tepid opening, the first chance fell the away side’s way with 10 minutes gone as a mix-up between Mikel and Terry allowed Raul Rusescu in on goal. Chelsea’s task was almost doubled after just 13 minutes when the man who got the winner in Bucharest looked set to again make the Blues pay the price for slack defending. But keeper Petr Cech, pulled off a fine, full stretched finger-tip saves to turn the ball around the post.

A right-footed strike from Mata canceled out the away side’s 1-0 lead from the first leg. Mata drove forward and swapped passes with Ramires before sliding a shot with enough power to get through the keepers legs. However, Vlad Chiriches leveled proceedings from a corner just prior to the halftime whistle.

With 45 minutes left to play, the Blues would need two goals to advance, along with preventing the visitors from striking again. A storming header from Terry was followed by a smart finish from Torres into the bottom corner. Even though he missed a late penalty in an attempt to extend the lead, it proved unimportant as Steaua could not force a late goal, leaving Chelsea free to proceed to the next round.

With the quarter-finals drawings of the Europa League taken place this morning, Chelsea has been paired up with Russian club FC Rubin Kazan. The first leg match will be played on April 4th at Stamford Bridge.

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