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Apr 11, 2013

Lampard eyes final spot

Frank Lampard has no doubts about the importance of the Europa League to Chelsea after they reached the semi-finals with a 5-4 aggregate victory over Rubin Kazan.

• Lythell: Chelsea survive ref's Russian roulette to make semis

Chelsea lost 3-2 on the night in Moscow, but an early goal from Fernando Torres and a second-half strike from Victor Moses were enough to see them through.

With Chelsea set to face Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, interim boss Rafael Benitez made a number of changes to his team - leaving out Juan Mata and Eden Hazard - but still featured the likes of Petr Cech, John Terry and Lampard.

"People talk (the Europa League) down at different times but when we get out there we're very professional and the closer we get to the final the more special it gets," Lampard told ESPN.

"Every game is difficult at the moment but we've got a big squad. Playing every few days has got to be a compliment to us, we've reached the semi-final and now we want to get to the final."

Torres opened the scoring after just three minutes with a long lob as Chelsea hit their hosts with a swift counter-attack.

The ball almost bounced over the bar on the artificial pitch, but just dipped in time.

"It was a great finish," Lampard said. "It's not easy, running at that pace with a defender behind you and the goal in front, but he finished it well and he's in good form at the moment."

After Moses put them 2-1 in front on the night, it looked like game over, but Rubin fought back and took the lead with a penalty which looked soft.

"I couldn't believe he gave it really," Lampard said. "The fella played for it, I couldn't believe but the game was out of sight by then."

Benitez admitted his team might have done better defensively but was happy to get the mission accomplished in testing conditions.

"In the circumstances, with a tough pitch, some players out and lots of young players its a professional job," he said.

"I'm really pleased with the effort of the players. The second goal we could have done better but they were pushing and pushing.

"We needed an early goal and Fernando has scored it. I'm pleased with the effort but disappointed because they were pushing and pushing and we could have done a little bit better in defence, but credit the players because we have gone through."

Benitez will now rotate his side again ahead of Sunday's FA Cup clash.

"We played a number of players who will not play on Sunday but the good thing is we can continue in another competition and that's good for the squad."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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