After 9 months of watching clubs toil through the Europa League, many relishing the rare opportunity to play in a European competition, it’s two Champions League dropouts who make it through to Amsterdam.
Chelsea defeated Basel 3-1 tonight at home in London, winning 5-2 on aggregate to make their second European final in under 12 months, on the heels of their Champions League victory last season. Down 1-0 to the reigning Swiss champions, the English giants splashed for three goals in nine minutes. Fernando Torres opening the scoring in the 50th minute and David Luiz capping off the treble with a cracking strike in the 59th, reminiscent of his wonder goal against Fulham last month.
Benfica made their way to the Europa League final via a much more exciting finish at home in their semifinal tie with Fenerbahce. With the score at 2-1 in favor of Benfica, the aggregate sat on 2-2 and it remained Fenerbache’s advantage thanks to the away goal, a Durk Kuyt converted penalty. It all changed in the 66th minute as a long throw into the box sat uncleared and Oscar Cardoza slammed it home for his second goal of the match, giving Benfica the 3-2 aggregate advantage and eventual winner.
Chelsea will be looking for their first piece of silverware under lame-duck manager Rafa Benitez. They’ve played in three competition finals this season and have lost them all. David Luiz told ITV after the match, “The second half was better and I am happy we are in the final. This is one more opportunity to win a title.”
The Europa League final will be played on May 15 at Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which normally plays host to Ajax.