Ivanovic heads Chelsea into Europa Cup victorySports Thursday, May 16th, 2013
Chelsea became the first side to hold the UEFA Champions League
and UEFA Europa League titles simultaneously as Branislav
Ivanovic’s stoppage-time header earned a 2-1 victory over Benfica
Fernando Torres’ sixth goal in six Europa League games gave the
Blues a lead which was cancelled out by a penalty from Oscar
Cardozo, awarded for handball against Cesar Azpilicueta. Frank
Lampard hit the bar in the 88th minute before the winner came from
the most unlikely source as defender Ivanovic, who missed last
May’s Champions League win through suspension, headed in a
corner in the first minute of stoppage time.
For ten days Chelsea are holders of both Europe’s club trophies
after inflicting Benfica’s seventh successive defeat in European
finals. The Portuguese side’s 51-year wait for glory goes on.
Much derided interim boss Rafael Benitez has now delivered
silverware to make Chelsea the fourth side – after Juventus, Ajax and
Bayern Munich – to win all UEFA’s top competitions. The Londoners
won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970/71 and 1997/98 and the
Champions League last season. That Champions League success
came under an interim coach following a sacking earlier in the
campaign – and history has repeated itself in Amsterdam.
It brings Chelsea a trophy at the eighth attempt this season and with
a Champions League return all-but assured ahead of Sunday’s 69th
and final game of the season at home to Everton, Benitez has
fulfilled his brief since succeeding Roberto Di Matteo as boss in
November. His successor could be Jose Mourinho, who led Porto to
successive European titles before joining Chelsea in 2004.
It was never going to be straightforward against Mourinho’s
compatriots, a side Chelsea met for the first time last year en route
to Munich. The task was tougher still when Eden Hazard was ruled
out with a hamstring injury and captain John Terry, who missed the
2012 Champions League final through suspension, suffered further
final heartache due to an ankle injury.
As in Munich, Lampard, who is reported to be close to agreeing a
contract extension, skippered Chelsea from deep midfield, where he
was deployed alongside David Luiz, formerly of Benfica.
After Cardozo headed an early effort off target, Ramires, the other
ex-Benfica player in blue, was rugby tackled by Nemanja Matic, who
moved to Lisbon from London as part of the Luiz deal and avoided a
yellow card. Cardozo and Eduardo Salvio had efforts blocked and
Nicolas Gaitan scooped a shot over with Chelsea living dangerously
at the back.
If Chelsea were fortunate in defence, they had little luck in attack as
a Juan Mata through-ball intended for Ramires deflected off Oscar
and out for a goal-kick. Oscar had Chelsea’s first shot after 27
minutes, firing straight at Artur before Benfica, with Matic influential
in midfield, again enjoyed a period of dominance against a shaky
Lampard, who became Chelsea’s record goalscorer last Saturday,
attempted to spark his side into life and fired a swerving shot which
sent Artur the wrong way, only for the goalkeeper to stick out a left
hand to turn the ball over.
Chelsea’s rearguard action continued either side of the interval as
Gary Cahill and Azpilicueta conceded corners with Benfica players
lurking menacingly. Cardozo headed the ball in the net in the 51st
minute but was adjudged to be offside as Chelsea survived once
more before pouncing when another Benfica attack broke down.
After saving a Salvio header, Cech threw the ball down the centre of
the pitch which reached Torres in the centre circle. The Spaniard
beat the lumbering Luisao for pace and then approached Artur,
where the ball appeared to stick under his feet. But Torres dug it out
enough to round the goalkeeper and find the net from a narrow
angle to continue his Europa League hot streak.
Luisao was booked soon afterwards for a challenge on Torres, who
has not scored in the Premier League in 2013.
Benfica swiftly levelled through their own prolific marksman.
Azpilicueta was penalised for handball and Cardozo struck the
penalty down the centre for his seventh of the Europa League
Torres continued to look lively and bamboozled Luisao before going
down, but penalty appeals were waved away. Cardozo struck a
dipping volley which Cech turned over for a corner and the
Paraguay striker then was unable to turn the set-piece goalwards.
Chelsea had opportunities, too, the best when Lampard hit the
crossbar with a trademark right-footed effort from the edge of the
With extra-time looming Ramires won a corner, which Mata floated
into the box. Ivanovic peeled away to the back post and his arching
header left Artur flat footed as the ball drifted into the corner.
Chelsea still had to repel another Cardozo effort before the
celebrations could begin.
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