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Chelsea in Europa League final after Fernando Torres unhinges Basel

By the end, it was a throwback to happier times for Chelsea.

Their place in the Europa League final had been confirmed and, however much a downgrade it is compared with last season's glories, they will cherish the opportunity to bring another trophy back to Stamford Bridge at the end of a difficult, sometimes chaotic season.

They had kept their nerve even when Basel took the lead at the end of the first half to engulf the stadium with a sense of foreboding. Rafael Benítez's players cleared their heads during the break and their response in the second half was reminiscent of those intoxicating Champions League nights when they simply refused to bend.

It brought them three goals in the space of nine minutes and the third, from David Luiz, will be remembered as one of the more stunning finishes Stamford Bridge has witnessed for some time. Over the two legs they had deserved to go through and, though it is a strange mix of politics at this club, Benítez will probably not be too offended that a date against Benfica in Amsterdam on 15 May had been booked and it was the name of José Mourinho that was being sung.

The serenading began from the Matthew Harding stand inside the first few minutes and, for long spells, it was the soundtrack to the night. "José's coming home," they sang. The message was loud and clear but at least from Benítez's perspective the mood is very different from the mutinies he encountered earlier in the season. An unofficial ceasefire has been called and, however unfashionable it might be in these parts to offer Benítez any credence, he probably deserves some slack.

The only slight disappointment for Chelsea's supporters was that Frank Lampard could not equal Bobby Tambling's record of 202 goals for the club. Lampard hit the post early on, fired in the shot that led to Fernando Torres scoring the equaliser and, maybe trying a little too hard, put a late free-kick into the stand as the crowd implored him to add to the sense of occasion.

Overall, however, it constituted a satisfying evening, not least as Chelsea managed to win without the torn emotions of losing anyone for the final for totting up too many yellow cards. Roberto Di Matteo was deprived of four players for the Champions League final against Bayern Munich last May. The same number were vulnerable here but Benítez sensibly substituted David Luiz and Ramires. Ryan Bertrand avoided the dreaded booking and the fourth player, Mikel John Obi, was not involved at all. Benfica are refined opponents but, with a full squad, Chelsea will fancy their chances.

They had begun like a team in a hurry but their wayward finishing – one effort from Torres went out for a throw-in, reminiscent of a golfer slicing on to the wrong fairway – encouraged Basel to come back at them before half-time, culminating in Mohamed Salah opening the scoring. The Swiss champions had been growing in confidence but it was a bad goal to concede, stemming from a basic inability to hold a defensive line. Valentin Stocker's pass was beautifully weighted and Salah ran off Branislav Ivanovic to clip a left-foot shot past Petr Cech.

At half-time Chelsea's supporters might have been forgiven for bracing themselves for a nerve-shredding 45 minutes. Instead, the team's response was hugely impressive. Eden Hazard, in particular, was tremendous, always willing to carry the ball forward, displaying some lovely touches and playing with the cutting edge that justified Benítez's decision to start with Juan Mata on the bench, keeping the Spaniard back for Sunday's game at Manchester United.

Hazard was instrumental in the equaliser, collecting the ball just inside the Basel half and then bursting between two players and accelerating away. His speed and movement took him beyond another challenge and when he was tackled the ball broke to Lampard just outside the penalty area. Yann Sommer, the Basel goalkeeper, kept out Lampard's left-foot drive but Torres was following up and first to the rebound.

A sense of relief lifted the tension that had built during the interval and two minutes later the game swung decisively in Chelsea's favour as Moses surged infield from the left, played it to Torres and continued his own run into the penalty area. Torres scuffed his shot but the ball broke kindly for Moses. Fabian Schär smothered the first attempt but Moses made no mistake when the ball popped up for him to have a second crack.

Suddenly it was as if Chelsea had been shed of inhibition. David Luiz's goal deserves all the superlatives that will come with it: a dipping, curling left-foot effort into the top corner from Lampard's layoff 25 yards out. The shot was a combination of swerve, audacity and expertise but no one should be too surprised. A few moments earlier, he had tried to catch Sommer off his line by lofting a shot from his own half that was only a foot or so too high.

Chelsea had played with great confidence and the Brazilian, in his new midfield role, had scored a goal to grace the occasion.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Daniel Taylor at Stamford Bridge, for The Guardian on Thursday 2nd May 2013 22.04 Europe/London

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