Millennium Post

Luiz hands Blues crucial win

David Luiz, lucky to still be on the pitch after a shocking challenge, scored with the last kick of the game to give Chelsea a 1-2 win at FC Basel in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal after the Swiss side had levelled with an 87th minute penalty on Thursday.

Victor Moses gave Chelsea a 12th minute lead with a soft goal but Basel, after an uncertain opening, fought back well after the break and looked to have grabbed a deserved draw until the Brazilian curled in a free kick from 25 metres in the fourth minute of injury time.

The goal silenced a raucous St Jakob Park which was still celebrating Fabian Schaer’s penalty for the hosts, who are aiming to become the first Swiss side to reach a European final.

However, David Luiz was lucky to escape with a yellow card after a studs-up challenge on Philipp Degen late in the game. Schaer was also fortunate not to be dismissed for a late tackle on Eden Hazard.

Basel, playing their 19th match of a marathon European campaign which started away to Estonia’s Flora Tallinn in the Champions League second qualifying round in mid-July, have beaten Manchester United and Bayern Munich at home in the last 18 months.

Chelsea survived several scares as Basel dominated the final half hour and the hosts levelled when Cezar Azpilicueta was controversially judged to have fouled Stocker. Schaer stepped up and confidently dispatched the penalty and the Basel hardcore fans behind goal celebrated with pyrotechnics.

Both teams went for the winner and before David Luiz struck to give Chelsea a potentially decisive lead for next week’s second leg.

Meanwhile in Turkey, Egemen Korkmaz’s second-half header earned Fenerbahce a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal against Benfica and eased the tears of team mate Cristian on Thursday.

The Turkish club hit the woodwork three times including Cristian’s penalty which thudded against the post on the stroke of halftime, reducing the Brazilian to tears.

Luckily for the midfielder, Korkmaz made the breakthrough after 72 minutes with a header that also glanced the frame of the goal before landing narrowly over the line.

It proved enough to put Fenerbahce tantalisingly close to their first European final although Benfica will be formidable opponents in next week’s return in Lisbon.

‘Normally we are a team that delivers when we find opportunities, but tonight we couldn’t do that,’ Benfica coach Jorge Jesus told reporters. ‘But the result is not too bad, we will remain hopeful until the last minute of the second leg. We will be better in Lisbon.’    
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