Chelsea lift Europa League title

Branislav Ivanovic watched from the stands as Chelsea won its first Champions League last year.

Written by Associated Press | Amsterdam | Published: May 17, 2013 12:47 am

Branislav Ivanovic watched from the stands as Chelsea won its first Champions League last year. He eased the pains by scoring an injury time winner as his team beat Benfica 2-1 for the Europa League title.

Chelsea’s interim coach,Rafa Benitez,had plotted the goal on the training field with former Benfica player David Luiz. It was a sweet victory for Benitez,who has faced bitter criticism from the club’s own fans since replacing Roberto Di Matteo in November.

Just as they did in last year’s penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final,Chelsea’s players found a way to win against an opponent that probably would have won if it had converted its chances. A superb Fernando Torres solo effort gave Chelsea the lead on the hour mark. Oscar Cardozo tied itfrom the penalty spot eight minutes later,setting the stage for Ivanovic.

The win made Benitez only the second coach,after three-time champion Giovanni Trapattoni,to win the trophy with more than one club. Benitez first won the competition in 2004 with Valencia. The victory also lifted Chelsea alongside Juventus,Ajax and Bayern Munich as only the fourth club to win all three European titles. The Blues won the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1971 and 1998.

It was a bitterly frustrating end to the night for Benfica coach Jorge Jesus and his players. But Chelsea won without Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard and veteran central defender John Terry,who were both out injured. It was the second year running Terry had to sit out a European final — he was suspended for last year’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich .Terry got into his Chelsea uniform to join his teammates in their celebrations after the match. The last-minute defeat in front of 46,163 fans at the Amsterdam Arena meant Benfica now has not lifted a European trophy since 1962. That’s when a promising 20-year-old striker named Eusebio fired in two goals to power his team to a 5-3 victory over Real Madrid,also in Amsterdam. Since that victory,Benfica has lost all seven European finals it reached.

The Portuguese team overpowered Chelsea early on,The trend continued,as both sides had chances in the closing stages,with Petr Cech tipping over the net a dipping left-footed volley from Cardozo. Lampard fired a long-range shot onto the crossbar in the 88th minute.

MIKE CORDER

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