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Chelsea loanees key as Vitesse qualify for Europa League

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Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Vitesse didn't make it easy on themselves, but after a fantastic second half fightback — and that applies to both the regular season and today's match — they have reached Europe for the third time in the last four seasons.  Chelsea B had a rough start to the season with just 1 point from 12 and went into the half-time on the back of a seven-match winless streak, but the emergence of Bertrand Traoré as a goal-scoring center forward helped them to 9 wins from the final 14 games (and just 1 loss) to finish 5th in the league.

Fifth place was good enough to enter the 4-team qualifying playoffs for a spot in next year's Europa League.  First up were PEC Zwolle, who were dispatched 3-2 on aggregate.  Heerenveen (who finished 7th) eliminated Feyenoord in the other semifinal.  The first leg of the final was played in Heerenveen; it finished even with Vitesse grabbing two, possibly important away goals.  They would turn out not to matter.  After a lackluster first half in the second leg, which saw Vitesse concede twice, they produced a marvelous second half, scoring four goals to rout the opposition.

All three Chelsea loanees started the second leg, Bertrand Traoré in his customary center forward role, Josh McEachran in center midfield, and ex-right back Wallace on the right wing.  McEachran has had an increasingly important role for coach Peter Bosz, but today was not one of his better days and was replaced at the half.  While both Traore and Wallace had quiet first halves as well, they were key to the second half revival, their involvement in Vitesse's fourth goal on the night a shining example of just how much they tormented the visitor's defense.  Traore also won a penalty kick, from which Vejinovic equalized for Vitesse.

Traoré (#27) to Wallace (#2) to Labyad.  Pretty as you like.

It wasn't a perfect performance overall by any means, but Vitesse got the job done and will be playing Europa League football next season.  At least for two games, that is, since they'll be entered into one of the qualifying rounds.  While it sounds like McEachran might stick around for another season, Bertrand Traoré's heading back to Stamford Bridge, while Wallace, who's been a player re-born as a right winger, might be off to Portugal if recent rumors are to be believed.