A fantastic Chelsea side overcame a tough Benfica team in a dramatic Europa League finale at the Amsterdam Arena on Wednesday evening. This win means that for the next 10 days, Chelsea are the current holders of the 2 major European trophies.
Chelsea went into this game as favourites, but had serious injury problems to contend with, with midfield maestro Eden Hazard missing and captain John Terry sitting out his second European final in 2 years. Nevertheless, Chelsea fans breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that their talisman and newly appointed all-time top goal scorer Frank Lampard was starting.
Despite the bookies favouring Chelsea to lift the trophy it was Benfica who started the brighter of the 2 sides, enjoying a good chunk of possession; but unfortunately for them they struggled to make it count when approaching the final third, leaving Petr Cech’s goal intact as the two sides headed in for halftime. Chelsea had chances to open the scoring, Artur Moraes being called into action on a couple of occasions, most notably to prevent Lampard from adding to his incredible goal tally.
Benfica started the second half as they started the first and once again began to push forward and cause problems for the Blues. Benfica superstar Oscar Cardozo had a header chalked off after nodding in from an offside position, and the Portugese side seemed very much in the ascendency. Despite this, it was Chelsea who opened the scoring with a great throw from Cech culminating in a superb pass to Torres from Juan Mata, the Spanish striker holding off the challenge from Luisao and striking home.
The lead was short-lived for Chelsea as Cesar Azpilicueta handled in his own box to hand Oscar Cardozo the chance to equalize from the spot. Cardozo clinically converted the penalty and it was all to play for.
Both Cardozo and Lampard came close to winning it for their sides – Cardozo thwarted by the brilliance of Cech, and Lampard by the woodwork – before a 90th Mata corner found Branislav Ivanovic who headed home to break Benfica hearts and clinch the trophy for his side.
Credit must go to Rafa Benitez, who has really turned this Chelsea side around. It still remains likely that Benitez is leaving, but he is likely to have no shortage of suitors after the job he has done at Chelsea. Chelsea now look like a side full of confidence, and one can expect them to have a real crack at the Premier League and the Champions League next season.