Lacklustre Chelsea scrape through to semi-finals of Europa League

Rafa Benitez's side progressed to the last four of the Europa League despite a brave fightback from Rubin Kazan which was helped by a below par John Terry...

The Blues reached the last four of the second tier European competition by the skin of their teeth as the tie against Rubin Kazan in Russia turned out to be an affair to remember that saw the home side grab a 3-2 victory.  

The London side came into the tie with a 3-1 victory which more or less ensured their qualification to the semi-final. It gave manager Rafael Benitez the freedom to rotate his squad ahead of the weekend's FA Cup semi-final clash against Manchester City. And indeed he did rotate. Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard and John Obi Mikel were rested with Frank Lampard, Yossi Benayoun, Victor Moses and youngster Nathan Ake replacing them. Ryan Bertrand, who was declared to be unfit for this game was replaced by Paulo Ferreria who made only his 5th appearance of the season.

Paulo Ferreira made a rare appearance

The Russian side however started with Salomon Rondon man upfront flanked by Alan Kasaev and Gokdeniz Karadeniz. Vladimir Dyadyun, who went off with an injury in the first leg started on the bench.

The home side started the game well as they made much better use of the ball in the opening exchanges. Chelsea defended deep from the very start and it looked like Rubin Kazan were in for a long night at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow. John Terry, who is usually deployed at the left centre-half, was today playing on the right side of the central defence (inside of Cesar Azpilicueta). This meant that David Luiz, the quicker of the two Chelsea centre-halves, would be up against Rondon who tends to play a lot more on the left for Rubin.

The Chelsea defense was threatened early on in the game when some good work by Rondon down the right saw Gokdeniz cut back for Eremenko who saw his shot being blocked and save the early goal that would have seen Kurban Berdyev’s side come back into the tie. And as soon as the danger was cleared, Torres latched on to a hopeful long ball by Frank Lampard, lobbing over the Rubin keeper to give Chelsea a lead. The keeper, Sergey Rizhykov was in no man’s land as he misjudged the long pass and decided to come out 25 yards to clear it.

Torres opened the scoring for Chelsea

Chelsea were having the lead but as the half progressed, the Russians built enormous pressure on their opponents’ defense as Terry and co. continued to defend deep by keeping at least eight men behind the ball at all times. Whenever they did have the ball though, it wasn’t carried around well enough by the midfielders, most notably Benayoun and Lampard. A special mention has to be made here to Nathan Ake, who made his first appearance in a European competition, tried to keep it simple by protecting Chelsea’s defense but lost the ball at times thereby showing his inexperience.

As far as their defending was concerned, the Chelsea captain, was probably having the worst game of his life as he failed to bail them out on numerous occasions. His positioning sense was below par, not to forget the lack of agility and pace. For Rubin’s equalizer in the 51st minute, Terry failed to attack the ball as Ivan Marcano, the former Villarreal defender headed in strongly past Petr Cech in goal. However their delight was short-lived as Victor Moses put Chelsea ahead with a fine curling effort. The home side, though refused to be bogged down and continued dominating the flanks and getting in top quality crosses.

Their second of the night again came through a well directed cross, which was headed in by their captain Gokdeniz Karadeniz after Mikel and Ake both left him unmarked in the six yard box. Notably, Terry was again found in no man’s land in a position none of the opposition players were attacking, well outside of the six yard area.

Terry had a game to forget

Their overall tactic of letting their opponents have all the possession and trying to attack on the counter didn’t work at all as they simply lacked pace in their attack.

It is often said that attack is the best form of defense and had the Spanish coach sent in the players with a positive frame of mind, no matter who he chose to start the game with, the result might have been beyond doubt much earlier in the game.

At the end though, it made for a delightful game for the neutral with five goals split among the teams and although Chelsea fans might claim it to be a deserved victory over the two legs, Rubin Kazan, in reality, deserved much more.

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