Champions League holders Chelsea and Turkish side Fenerbahce will take one-goal advantages into the return fixtures as they fight for a spot in the Europa League final. Basel and Benfica aren't out of it yet, though.
Chelsea secured a 2-1 victory in Basel with a last-gasp goal from nominal defender David Luiz. The lanky Brazilian, with an adventurous streak as long as his own legs, hit a long, low free kick past goalie Yann Sommer with the last touch of the game to restore the Royal Blues' away advantage.
Sommer, who played another superlative game between Basel's posts, might feel he should have done better with Luiz's strike. He got both fists to the ball, but couldn't turn it away from goal.
Home fans might have felt the Brazilian should not have been on the pitch after a horrendous challenge earlier in the game. Chelsea's supporters, on the other hand, would point to the at-best dubious decision that granted Basel a penalty minutes beforehand.
Fabian Schär dispatched the spot kick, wiping out an early Chelsea advantage headed home by Victor Moses from a corner.
The match was a curious affair, not unlike Barcelona against Bayern Munich on Tuesday, Basel dominated possession but rarely managed to do very much with the ball. Chelsea had only 39 percent of the ball and yet out-shot Basel by 19 to 12. Both teams rattled the aluminum once, something that was by no means uncommon in Thursday night's other Europa League match, in Istanbul.
Tears at the half, a lead in the second
Fenerbahce, like Chelsea, were more potent in front of their Istanbul home fans against the same Benfica side that ousted Bayer Leverkusen from the competition in the round of 32.
The hosts, and specifically Brazilian Cristian, endured heartbreak late in the first half. Cristian fired a low spot kick plum against the post; he cut an inconsolable figure walking off in floods of tears at the break.
Fenerbahce's own goal frames again denied the Turkish side in the second half. Former Liverpool and Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt did well to wriggle free in the box but couldn't avoid hitting the woodwork. Nicolas Gaitan set that particular score straight for Benfica with a shot of his own that tickled the post.
A deserved home goal finally fell via Egemen Korkmaz's head on 72 minutes, after a scramble from a corner. Again, the strike was marred by a whiff of controversy; replays revealed that the Istanbul club should never have been awarded the corner. All the same, the Turks finished up with a 1-0 win.
The return legs will be played in London and Lisbon on May 2, with the final at Ajax's Amsterdam Arena on May 15.