Friday 12 April 2013
Chelsea, the last Barclays Premier League left in the competition, have been drawn to face Tottenham Hotspur's conquerors FC Basel in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.
Rafa Benitez's charges, who overcame FC Rubin Kazan thanks to a 3-2 success in Moscow on Thursday night, will travel to Switzerland for the first leg on on 15 April before hosting Basel at Stamford Bridge the following Thursday. The winners of that tie will face either Turkish Super Lig side Fenerbahce or Portuguese giants Benfica in the Amsterdam ArenA final on 15 May.
Tottenham and Newcastle United missed out on a last-four place with Spurs losing a penalty shootout in basel following a 4-4 aggregate draw and the Magpies' losing 4-2 to benfica over the two legs.
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez praised Fernando Torres but was relieved to see his side go through to the semi-finals after losing 3-2 in Moscow.
"It's a pity we lost the game, but we went through, that was the main thing"
Taking a 3-1 lead to the second leg Chelsea extended their advantage when Torres scored in the fourth minute. But after the break Ivan Marcano and Gokdeniz Karadeniz scored for Rubin, either side of Victor Moses's goal and Bebras Natcho’s 75th-minute penalty set up an anxious end.
"You have to analyse the two games in context," said Benitez after Chelsea's 58th match of the season. "We had a good result coming here, a different environment and different things we had to manage.
"It's a pity we lost the game, but we went through, that was the main thing. I'm really pleased with the team, with the effort, with a lot of players. They were giving everything on the pitch. We managed the squad and hopefully we'll have some fresh legs for Sunday [FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City], too."
Benitez was also happy with his compatriot, Torres, who scored three goals over the two legs. "Fernando played very well, he has done well in the last few games,” he said. “He is working hard, creating chances for himself and his team mates.”
Andre Villas-Boas rued his team's luck after seeing his Tottenham Hotspur side beaten by Basel in a penalty shootout with Tom Huddlestone and Emmanuel Adebayor missing their spot-kicks.
Clint Dempsey’s two goals, either side of strikes from Mohamed Salah and Aleksandar Dragovic, had taken the tie into extra-time, which Spurs had to play with 10 men after Jan Vertonghen's red card in the final minute of normal time. But seeking their first win in a penalty shootout in 19 years Spurs fell short.
"Next time will go a bit better because it couldn't go worse tonight"
Villas-Boas, who won the competition with Porto in 2011, hopes that, with three Barclays Premier League teams in the quarter-finals this season, the UEFA Europa League will be taken more seriously in future.
"We are disappointed not to go through because we had high ambitions for the competition," he said. "My first thoughts are for the players because they set for the country a great, great example.
"The way they have played in the Europa League this season, the way they have approached it, the way they played every Thursday and every Sunday, showed the country that it was possible to approach it in a different way.
"To have come from Tottenham that example is something that I will always cherish and the players will too because of the change of approach. We are happy that although there is great disappointment, we have set a standard for the future. Next time will go a little bit better because it couldn't go worse tonight."
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew was proud of his team despite their exit at the hands of Benfica.
"I can't ask for anything more from the players"
Papiss Cisse's header after 71 minutes gave the locals at St James' Park hope of another late goal to seal passage on away goals, but Newcastle could not find another and the tie was ended when Eduardo Salvio equalised in injury time.
"They are a good side, you can't let them get the lead against you," Pardew said. "We defended well in the first half, kept it tight, looked to try and nick a goal and almost got one just before half-time.
"The second half we were going to see if they could cope and they couldn't really, we had two or three big chances at 1-0. But I can't ask for anything more from the players. They were excellent tonight."
Quarter-finals, second legs
Basel 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur (4-4 on aggregate; Basle win 4-1 on penalties)
Newcastle United 1-1 Benfica (Benfica win 4-2 on aggregate)
Rubin Kazan 3-2 Chelsea (Chelsea win 5-4 on aggregate)
Lazio 1-1 Fenerbahce (Fenerbahce win 3-1 on aggregate)
Fenerbahce v Benfica
Basel v Chelsea
Ties to take place on 25 April and 2 May.