Chelsea v Basel

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Stamford Bridge last night.  The sun was shining and everyone was ready to have a good time.  It’s nice to go to a night match with the sun out for the kick off.  As I walked from Earls Court Station to Stamford Bridge passing restaurants and bars I saw loads of people making the most of the weather.

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Chelsea and FC Basel take to the field.

The match started with Chelsea holding a 2 – 1 lead over Basel thanks to a last gasp free kick scored by David Luiz.

The first half contained chances for both teams and a half time scoreline of 2 – 2 was a possibility if not for some clever saves by Cech and his counterpart Sommer.  As it was the half time score was 0 – 1 with Basel’s Mohamed Salah scoring just before the break.

There was renewed hope in the second half when goals from Fernando Torres and Victor Moses two minutes apart put Chelsea firmly back in the driving seat, calming some of the nerves in the crowd.

Whilst Basel looked threatening on the attack their lack of clinical finishing in front of goal was at times a let off for Chelsea.  Cech was equal to the shots heading  goalwards and ensured that Basel could not take advantage of the away goals on the night.

As the second half approached the 60th minute the fans began to look to the substitutes warming up with the thought of resting players for the matches against Manchester United and Tottenham.

David Luiz had other ideas,  launching what can only be described as a cheeky curling shot goalwards and into the top corner of the net, Stamford Bridge once more erupting into a cauldron of noise.  It truly was a “take a bow” moment, the sort of goal you wait a long time to see but always remember.   (Due to the quality of the shot the Chelsea website has today added the goal to the Goal of the Season entries with the winning goal being announced at the Player of the Year Awards on the 16th May the day after the Europa Final.)

It was then time for substitutes with Oscar coming on for Ramires, who had been reported as having a slight knock going into the match.  Tired legs started to show and Hazard was substituted for Mata, presumably with one eye on Sunday’s match.  Azpilicueta having run himself ragged up and down the wing all night looked tired and a candidate for the final sub of the night but he held on for the full 90 mins.  The final substitution brought a standing ovation for the man of the night David Luiz, a booking away from missing the final was rested in favour of Nathan Ake.

Frank Lampard threatened the goal with some close shots and was unlucky not to equal the record in the first half with a shot off the post.  I’m believe he will equal the all time scoring record and have a feeling a 1 year contract extension is on the cards with Mourinho’s return allowing him to break the record next season.  For a player loved by the supporters for the loyalty and performances he has shown over the years it would be the welcome end to a successful partnership as Frank approaches the final years of his playing career.

What tipped off a brilliant night for me was the atmosphere provided largely by the Matthew Harding Stand.  They sang all night and watching them bounce up and down was really funny to watch!  I particularly enjoyed the reaction to the Basel supporters lighting red flares in the top-tier of the Shed End; they serenaded them with a rendition of Happy Birthday!  Cue laughter from the parts of the ground that got the joke and queried looks from those who didn’t.

FC Basel supporters in the Shed End Upper after lighting a flare

FC Basel supporters in the Shed End Upper after lighting a flare

It was another important victory which means a trip to Amsterdam and another European Cup Final.  With Chelsea receiving an allocation of 9,800 tickets for the final most of the crowd inside Stamford Bridge last night will end up watching the final on TV.  Others will make the trip “Over Land and Sea” although possibly not “Leicester” just to be in Amsterdam when Chelsea win the trophy for the first time.

My final thoughts are with the team, who showed last night that despite some doubters they do care about winning this Trophy.  For Juan Mata and Fernando Torres winning the Europa League Trophy will give them the final piece of European Silverware missing from their personal collections, a feat few footballers achieve.

This season has brought ups, downs and manager changes but the team have weathered all that has been thrown at them with dreadful (at times) to sublime performances.   There have been some key changes in the last few seasons on the pitch with important players leaving to be replaced by players who I’m sure the supporters are hoping will be around for many years to come.

The fact remains come the 19th May 2013 Chelsea could be Double European Champions (until the Champions League Final on the 25th May) and secure a  top four finish in the premier league and for a season that promised so much but delivered so little that would not be a bad ending.

Petr Cech, David Luiz, Juan Mata, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ramires and Fernando Torres head for the dressing room

Petr Cech, David Luiz, Juan Mata, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ramires and Fernando Torres head for the dressing room

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