Chelsea win Europa League title


Chelsea win EuropaChelsea won the UEFA Europa League thanks to Branislav Ivanovic’s last-gasp header as they beat Benfica 2-1 in Amsterdam on Wednesday night.

Fernando Torres had given the Premier League side the lead and the Serbian defender sealed a memorable win in stoppage time after Oscar Cardozo’s penalty had levelled the scores.

The Portuguese side named their strongest possible XI with Cardozo flanked by Eduardo Salvio, Nico Gaitan and Rodrigo in attack.

But Rafael Benitez had to make do without the services of injured duo John Terry and Eden Hazard, with David Luiz stepping into midfield to allow Ramires to play on the right wing.

Benfica settled the quicker of the two teams and were soon on the front foot, Cardozo heading over from a Andre Almeida cross inside two minutes.

Jorge Jesus’ men dictated the play in the early going but proved wasteful in front of goal, Gaitan firing high at the end of another intricate move, which saw Salvio turn down a sighting of goal.

Chelsea did eventually stem the tide of attacks from the Portuguese side but, although they were able to obtain a spell of possession themselves, chances proved few and far between in an encounter which became increasingly cagey as the first half wore on.

However, it was the English club who arguably had the best opportunity seven minutes before the interval, Frank Lampard shooting from range to draw an acrobatic save from Artur.

Benfica thought they had taken a deserved lead, but Cardozo’s header was ruled out for a tight offside call six minutes into the second half after he had latched on to an excellent delivery from Gaitan.

Chelsea responded with a spell of pressure of their own, and they grasped the advantage after 59 minutes, a throw from Petr Cech going all the way through to Torres who raced away from Luisao before rounding Artur and slotting home.

That goal looked to have shaken Benfica’s confidence as Chelsea pressed to find a second goal, but after 67 minutes the Estadio da Luz outfit were handed a lifeline when Cesar Azpilicueta was adjudged to have handled a flick on from Salvio, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers pointing to the spot after strenuous appeals from Jesus’ men.

Cardozo duly stepped up to level matters, powering a shot straight down the middle to leave a despairing Cech with no chance.

The Stamford Bridge club had a claim for a penalty only seven minutes later when Torres looked to have been felled by Luisao, however this time Kuipers waved away the protests.

The second period was undoubtedly a much more even affair than the first, but it was Jesus’ chargers who looked the more likely to seal the victory, Cardozo bringing a good save from Cech with a volley from distance.

Both teams pushed for what would have been the winner with time ticking away, and it was Chelsea who were left to rue their luck after Lampard rattled the bar with a spectacular curling strike.

But they were delirious in the very last minute as Ivanovic’s header from Mata’s corner looped over Artur and in to seal a second European title for the club in as many seasons.


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