Chelsea Seal Second Consecutive European Title With Late Ivanovic Winner

In the first of our two European tournament finals, Chelsea and Benfica may not have started by offering up goal bonanza that all were hoping for, but a second-half surge at the Amsterdam Arena quickly corrected any fears of a bore draw.

A more deserving candidate to walk away as the winner of this tie than Branislav Ivanovic, there couldn’t have been, bringing a close to what has been a tumultuous season for all at Stamford Bridge.

Just as they did at the Allianz Arena last season, the Blues took up a position closer to that of a counter-attacking side, despite being looked at as the bookies favourites heading into their Europa League finale. Benfica kindly obliged with a generous helping of first-half pressure, Oscar Cardozo unsurprisingly offering a confident spearhead to Jorge Jesus’ attack.

With the best attack in the Liga Primeira and scoring an incredible average of 2.55 goals per game domestically, Benfica’s early advances will certainly have been expected by Rafa Benitez.

David Luiz, once again deployed in his defensive midfield duties, was handed a start alongside Frank Lampard but struggled largely to contain the creative flow of the Eagles’ more expressive stars, Nicolas Gaitan and Rodrigo standing out.

Within 20 minutes, the cracks in Chelsea’s lineup began to become more and more evident, some of the West Londoners’ showing the wear and tear that almost 60 club fixtures can have in a season.

The Portuguese giants easily had the better share of any first half sights on goal, Cardozo heading just over from close range and a few of Jesus’ other attacker also wasting chances.

In fact, Chelsea’s only real scoring opportunity of the first 45 minutes came through a Frank Lampard sighter. Just a few days after netting a season-changing brace against Aston Villa, the veteran once again showed the threat he poses to the opposition by swerving an effort at Artur’s goals, a chance that the Benfica goalkeeper had to shift swiftly to reject, just about getting the necessary fingers to the ball.

Although most dangerous going forward, Benfica looked coherent at the back, too, with the likes of Luisão and Ezequiel Garay rejecting much of what Benitez’s side had to offer through the aerial channels.

So, 0-0 at the break, spectators could only hoped for things to improve in the second period, a packed Amsterdam Arena remaining strong in voice all the while.

It wouldn’t take long for the two teams to repay their patrons either. After failing to crack Benfica’s back four with all the technical intricacies their star-studded side possesses, it was ultimately a hopeful-looking Petr Cech lob down the middle that found its way through to Fernando Torres.

The Spaniard, who’s found some sense of his old proficiency in the Europa League this season, dummied to get past a first defender before racing through on Artur’s goal. Shaking the challenge of a second marker, Torres calmly took the ball wide of the Brazilian stopper before sliding in from an angle to the right of Benfica’s goal. Against the run of play, Chelsea led.

However, the advantage was not to last long. Jorge Jesus took the initiative, taking Rodrigo and Melgarejo off for Lima and Ola John, respectively, showing a strong attacking intent in the manager’s tactics.

How the changes would pay off, too. Just nine minutes after succumbing to Torres’ opener, Cesar Azpilicueta’s flailing arms were struck by a Salvio header inside the box, setting half of the Amsterdam Arena into rejoice as Bjorn Kuipers signalled for a Benfica penalty.

Oscar Cardozo made no mistakes from 12 yards, blasting directly down Cech’s middle and bringing his side level with their English enemies.

The remaining 20 minutes of the second half would see Chelsea pick up substantially in terms of their performance and where once there was a domination in the midfield areas for the likes of Nemanja Matic and Andre Almeida, Lampard and Luiz began to come into their own.

It was Lampard’s presence that Ola John picked out as Chelsea’s most dangerous weapon prior to kickoff, and if one was sceptical as to why Roman Abramovich might finance a contract extension for the England international, Lampard certainly did his part in convincing during the dying minutes of the game.

In the 87th minute, the 34-year-old would fire in on Artur’s goal from long range once more, this time denied by the woodwork, spitting the ball out directly where it had come from and with the same ferocity, no less.

With Benfica looking settled on extra time, Chelsea gave it one final toss of the dice and won a 92nd-minute corner through the graft of Ramires. Urged on by the cheers of their travelling fans, it was Branislav Ivanovic—who missed last year’s Champions League final win over Bayern—who would rise higher than any other, powering a looped header into Artur’s far corner that could’ve hung for a lifetime.

The Serbian’s late addition would go on to ensure a second consecutive European title for Rafa Benitez’s side, even if the ex-Liverpool boss may not be around to enjoy it for much longer.

Having lost out to Porto in the Liga Primeira title race just days earlier, Jorge Jesus suffered his second trophy defeat at the death against Chelsea, bringing an all too dire end to what was actually an incredible campaign.

Meanwhile, the blue masses will be left to celebrate another major addition to their silverware tally, and while it may not have been the outcome everybody foresaw at the start of the season, Rafa Benitez’s controversial reign as interim Chelsea manager couldn’t have ended on a more positive note.

2 Comments on "Chelsea Seal Second Consecutive European Title With Late Ivanovic Winner"

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  1. Anonymous says:

    i need some chelsea shirt &some other gudthings

  2. To be sincere, benfica had all it takes to win in d first half but they failed, the few attempts CHELSEA had were great which we converted to goal. Though most Chelsea fans dont like Benitez but I think we should honour him for the success achieved… We are expecting Mourinho at the Bridge

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