Excite

Late Ivanovic goal wins Europa League for Chelsea

  • Getty Images

A year after their dramatic late win in the Champions League final in Munich, Chelsea won the Europa League with a stoppage time winner in Amsterdam. Branislav Ivanovic's decisive header secured the trophy for Chelsea and salvaged silverware from a troubled season.

It was vindication for caretaker manager Rafael Benitez who withstood the constant abuse of Chelsea fans since his appointment in mid-season and delivered Champions League qualification and a Europa League win.

It was a victory for character rather than technique. Chelsea struggled to withstand constant Benfica pressure in the first half. With Eden Hazard absent through injury, Chelsea found it hard to keep hold of the ball, while the Portuguese side moved it around slickly.

In the second half Chelsea emerged with a better attitude. Fernando Torres gave them the lead racing onto a Petr Cech throw, holding off the defender Luisao, rounding the goalkeeper and finishing coolly. Torres seemed to have discovered his best form at the right moment.

Benfica equalised from the penalty spot, Oscar Cardozo scoring after Cesar Azpilicueta had handled. Chelsea still looked capable of winning the game though, Frank Lampard smacking a spectacular shot against the crossbar three minutes from time. That seemed to signal extra time until Ivanovic stepped up with a looping header from a corner to decide the match.

"The first half we weren't good enough," Torres said, "not in defence, not in our concentration. We talked about this being the final, about being a chance to win something." The difference was notable in the second half and Benitez deserves credit for the transformation.

Chelsea fans may even offer some grudging respect for the job Benitez did in his short spell in charge. Although he will be forgotten in the wave of euphoria that would greet the news of Jose Mourinho's return.

United Kingdom - Excite Network Copyright ©1995 - 2017