Branislav Ivanovic’s late winner brought more European success to Chelsea Football Club as they beat Benfica 2-1 in the final of the Europa League. Goals from Fernando Torres and Oscar Cardozo left the game poised for extra time before the Serb’s looping header won it for The Blues.
Chelsea struggled to establish themselves in the match as Benfica took control of the first half. Jorge Jesus’ team caused Chelsea’s defence a lot of problems but they couldn’t carve any clear cut chances. The Chelsea defence was frantic and desperate at time. Frank Lampard’s swerving shot from distance was a rare highlight in a worrying first half.
But The Blues were much better in the second half. Mata spent much more time on the ball and Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole were getting past the halfway line. Benfica almost went ahead when Oscar Cardozo’s header was ruled out for offside. But Chelsea did break the deadlock just before the hour mark (although you won’t have seen much of it thanks to a Dutch TV director). Petr Cech’s long throw found Mata who flicked it on to Torres superbly. The striker was always going to beat Luisao for pace but it looked as though the chance may have gone as Torres stumbled past Artur. But he kept his composure and slotted home giving Chelsea the lead.
The lead lasted just eight minutes. Azpilicueta handed Benfica a penalty which Oscar Cardozo fired home, injuring himself in the process. Frank Lampard almost popped up with winner with another long range drive but it rebounded off the crossbar with venom. Two minutes into stoppage time, the game was heading into another extra-time in a European final for The Blues when we won a corner. Juan Mata, who set up Drogba’s header in the Champions League final, curled the ball to the back post. Ivanovic, fixated on the ball, intent on making up for missing last year’s final, leapt and sent the ball to the far corner with a looping header. With less than a minute to go, another European title looked certain. If not for the last ditch defending of Gary Cahill there could have been another late twist. But it was not Benfica’s night. It was Chelsea’s. Europa League champions.
I don’t normally do Stats in match reports, but here are The Stats.
- Chelsea are the first team to hold both European titles at the same time.
- Chelsea are the first team to win both European titles consecutively in reverse order (Champions League followed by Europa League).
- Chelsea are only the fourth team to win the Champions League, Uefa Cup/Europa League and Cup Winners’ Cup.
- Fernando Torres and Juan Mata are the first two players to be reigning champions of the World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Europa League.
- Only Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Peter Osgood have scored more European goals for Chelsea than Fernando Torres.
- Fernando Torres’ goal was the first time Chelsea have lead in a European final. (Champions League or Europa League.)
- Juan Mata has assisted Chelsea’s last three goals in European finals.