European heavyweights Chelsea and SL Benfica reached the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday and were joined by lesser lights Basel and Fenerbahce, who made the last four of a continental competition for the first time.
European champions Chelsea grabbed a spot in yesterday’s draw with a 5-4 aggregate win over Rubin Kazan, despite going down 3-2 on the night in Moscow, while Benfica scored in stoppage-time to draw 1-1 at Newcastle United for a 4-2 aggregate victory.
Tottenham Hotspur had done the hard work to level their tie at 4-4 against Basel, before being reduced to 10 men just before the end of normal time to leave themselves a man down for the extra period, which they survived before losing 4-1 on penalties.
Fenerbahce weathered an onslaught behind closed doors at SS Lazio to draw 1-1 and go through 3-1 on aggregate.
Chelsea continue to inject some glamor into Europe’s second-tier club competition a year after they won the elite UEFA Champions League, even if their side featured some lesser-known names.
Handing rare starts to Paulo Ferreira and 18-year-old Nathan Ake due to injuries, and with manager Rafael Benitez having one eye on tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City, they went ahead through a fifth-minute goal from Fernando Torres.
The Russians pulled one back through Ivan Marcano’s header after 51 minutes, before Victor Moses reestablished the visitors’ lead four minutes later at the Luzhniki Stadium, where Chelsea lost the 2008 Champions League final to Manchester United.
Goekdeniz Karadeniz headed in from close range to make it 2-2 and Rubin snatched victory on the night when Bebras Natcho converted a 75th-minute penalty awarded after Cesar Azpilicueta was harshly adjudged to have pushed Aleksandr Ryazantsev.
Benfica, who held a 3-1 lead from last week’s first leg, endured a nervous conclusion to their game after falling behind to a 71st-minute header from Papiss Cisse that meant the hosts would go through on away goals if they could score again.
The Portuguese former European Cup winners had to wait until the second minute of stoppage-time to make absolutely sure of their passage into the draw for the last four, with Eduardo Salvio finishing off Rodrigo’s low center from the left.
“Two goals was a bridge too far,” Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi told ITV4, referring to the first-leg defeat against Benfica, who, like Chelsea, had dropped down from the Champions League to play in the competition.
Twice UEFA Cup winners Spurs, locked at 2-2 after the first leg with Basel, resumed their tie in heavy rain in Switzerland.
The visitors took a 23rd-minute lead when Clint Dempsey rounded goalkeeper Yann Sommer to fire home, but the advantage lasted only four minutes as the dangerous Mohamed Salah combined with Marco Streller, before poking the ball in.
Playing without injured regulars Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, Spurs lacked an attacking edge and Basel pulled ahead when defender Aleksandar Dragovic netted from close range after goalkeeper Brad Friedel batted Fabian Schar’s header to his feet.
There was another twist, though, as Dempsey leveled the aggregate score in the 82nd minute with a tame shot that Sommer should have dealt with, but had to watch crawl over the line.
Just as it looked like the momentum had swung in Spurs’ favor they were reduced to 10 men in the final minute of normal time, when last man Jan Vertonghen tripped Streller to give Basel a numerical advantage for extra-time.
The Swiss could not capitalize and penalties followed, with Basel eventually going through after Spurs substitute Tom Huddlestone was denied by an excellent save from Sommer and striker Emmanuel Adebayor sent his spot-kick high over the bar.
“We made the country feel different towards the competition,” Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas told ITV. “Although we are disappointed, we have set this standard for the future.”
It was a much quieter affair at Lazio, mainly because they were playing behind closed doors at the Stadio Olimpico as punishment for the poor behavior of their fans.
The Italian side gave themselves hope of a comeback from their 2-0 first-leg deficit when Senad Lulic headed in on the hour, but the Turkish side replied through Caner Erkin in the 73rd minute to settle their nerves and the tie.
In yesterday’s draw, Chelsea were drawn to face Basel, while Benfica take on Fenerbahce. In the Champions League, Bayern Munch will face Barcelona, while fellow German side Borussia Dortmund take on Real Madrid.
Additional reporting by staff writer