Chelsea booked their place in the Europa League semi-finals — although not without difficulty — as Rubin Kazan’s narrow victory was not enough to overturn their first-leg deficit.
Chelsea, meanwhile, were left to thank their 3-1 home victory, as disastrous defending in this leg thankfully did not put pay to any European hopes for the Blues this season.
If it was any game to sum up Chelsea’s unpredictable season, it would be this. A Fernando Torres goal inside the first five minutes meant Rubin Kazan needed four to win outright. Marcano’s equaliser looked to be a mere consolation four minutes into the second half, especially once Victor Moses scored Chelsea’s second away goal just shy of the hour mark. But two in 12 minutes for Kazan shifted the momentum yet again, but the European champions just held out. At least Kazan had managed to restore some pride with this victory.
It has started in such ghastly fashion for them. A quiet Luzhniki Stadium, neither the home ground of either club, become even quieter once Torres seemingly put an end to any comeback hopes.
An outstanding, first-time sweeping pass by Lampard fell perfectly into Fernando Torres’ stride, and with the help of the ball’s bounce, together with hapless Ryzhikov rushing off his line, the Spaniard lobbed the Kazan goalkeeper.
It was a confident strike from the man in the mask, and certainly a shot he would not have dared tried a few months back, but Lampard’s assist was equally divine.
It was all Chelsea despite a weakened side, with Rafa Benitez having one eye on the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City on Sunday. Still, the players afforded a starting eleven spot looked set on proving to the interim manager their worth, with Moses testing their keeper.
Cech was by no mean a passer-by in the first half, having to be alert in keeping out Karadeniz, but at the start of the second, he could not stop Marcano from heading the equaliser.
It was still firmly in Chelsea’s hands, even more so five minutes later. Lampard found Moses, who played a one-two off Ramires, before side-footing high into the Kazan goal. Game over, surely.
Lampard was bossing the midfield alongside the youngster Ake, and Mikel came on to add defensive solidity, replacing Ramires, but three minutes after his introduction, Rubin Kazan equalised for the second time in the night. Karadeniz, the smallest player on the pitch, rose highest as Cech was once again beaten from a header.
Rubin suddenly surged where Chelsea took the foot off the gas. Marcano nearly scored his second, only to be denied by the post, but Natcho did score the game’s next goal from the penalty spot. Azpilicueta was the man in the dock, having bundled over Ryazantsev, albeit softly.
Former Chelsea target Rondon had a glorious opportunity to show what he is capable of, but headed straight at Cech, who was not to be beaten from above for the third time this evening.
More substitutions broke up the play, with Oscar and Ivanovic coming on for Benayoun and Lampard, and as time went on, so Kazan lost hope. Chelsea survive and a semi-final berth is theirs.