Chelsea Wins Europa League on Ivanovic’s Stoppage-Time Goal
Chelsea became the first team to hold both major European club soccer trophies at the same time by beating Benfica 2-1 in the Europa League final.
Branislav Ivanovic’s stoppage-time header secured the win last night in Amsterdam after Oscar Cardozo’s penalty kick for Benfica tied Fernando Torres’s 60th-minute opener. Chelsea’s victory in Europe’s second-tier club competition follows its elite Champions League title last year.
“It’s been an amazing time for all of us in the last two years,” midfielder Frank Lampard, who captained Chelsea in place of the injured John Terry, said in a televised interview. “Talk about ups and down. It’s a big up in the end.”
Chelsea, which became the fourth club to win all three major European competitions, will hold both titles for 10 days until German clubs Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich meet in the Champions League final on May 25 in London.
Benfica, a two-time European Cup winner, had been seeking to end a 51-year trophy drought in continental competition and fell to its seventh straight defeat in a European title match.
“We played an excellent final, but just lacked that bit of luck we deserved,” Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said on the website of tournament organizer UEFA.
Chelsea had dropped into the Europa League this season after becoming the first Champions League titleholder to be eliminated in the group stage.
It’s the second time Blues interim manager Rafael Benitez has won the competition, after guiding Valencia to victory in 2004 when it was known as the UEFA Cup. Benitez joins Giovanni Trapattoni of Juventus and Inter Milan as the only coaches to win the title with more than one club.
“It was not easy, we have been talking about this all the time, so I am really pleased, really proud,” Benitez told ITV. “It was a great performance in the second half. We had some problems in the first half against a very good team.”
Benfica controlled play before the break with the best chances coming from Cardozo and Nicolas Gaitan’s shots over goal, while goalkeeper Artur reached back to knock Lampard’s swerving shot out for a corner kick.
The Portuguese team began the second half on the offensive and Cardozo was ruled offside as he headed in Gaitan’s cross.
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech then saved Eduardo Salvio’s header and started a counterattack with a throw that Juan Mata flicked on to Torres. The Spanish striker held off defender Luisao, went around Artur and shot into the open net.
The lead lasted eight minutes as Cardozo scored from the penalty spot after Cesar Azpilicueta’s handball. Cech then tipped Cardozo’s shot over the crossbar.
After Lampard hit the bar in the 88th minute, Ivanovic hung in the air to score with a looping header off Mata’s corner kick. Benfica had one last chance, though Gary Cahill’s sliding tackle prevented Cardozo from getting a shot on goal.
Chelsea joins Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich as the only clubs to win all three major European competitions: the European Cup/Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League and the Cup Winners’ Cup. Benfica’s last title came in 1962, when it captured back-to-back European Cups.
“It’s a great feeling,” Ivanovic, who was suspended for last year’s Champions League final, told ITV. “This team deserves this. We have had a difficult season with a lot of games. Now it’s time to celebrate.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at firstname.lastname@example.org.