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Chelsea last English survivors in Europe once more

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Chelsea are England’s last representatives in Europe for the second successive season after making it into the semi-finals of the Europa League. They lost 3-2 to Rubin Kazan in Moscow but their lead from the first leg was sufficient to see them progress. Last season they ended up as European champions; this season winning the Europa League would be reasonable consolation for a difficult season.

An early goal from Fernando Torres seemed to have settled the tie, but some chaotic defending in the second half allowed the Russian side to win the match in front of a muted crowd, some 500 miles away from the club’s home town.

Tottenham came agonisingly close to joining their London rivals in the last four. Character, resolve and team spirit brought them a battling 2-2 draw in Basle to level the tie. Tottenham then lost a penalty shootout, the seventh consecutive time they have failed in a spot-kick showdown.

It was a courageous performance from a Spurs side missing Gareth Bale, Jermain Defoe, William Gallas and Aaron Lennon and reduced to ten men by the late sending-off of Jan Vertonghen. Captain Michael Dawson was particularly impressive, marshalling a makeshift defence.

"They played like heroes," manager Andre Villas-Boas said. "I think we set a great standard and a great example this season for English football for the way that we approached this competition. I would like to compliment the players because changing the mentality towards the competition is difficult."

Villas-Boas has consistently fielded strong teams in Europe, in contrast to the attitude shown by other managers in the past. The team’s injury list is the price he has had to pay, and if it ends up costing Tottenham a top four Premier League place, he may regret the policy.

England’s other quarter-finalists, Newcastle, briefly threatened to overhaul their two-goal deficit from the first leg against Benfica but a late goal from the Portuguese side meant the match finished 1-1 and ended their hopes.

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