Chelsea’s Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic scored with an injury time header on Wednesday night to give The Blues a 2-1 win over Benfica in the final of UEFA’s Europa League at Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena, and secure the club’s second European trophy in as many seasons after winning last year’s Champions League.
Ivanovic rose above everyone at the far post to send a looping header over Benfica goalkeeper Artur from a Juan Mata corner to seal the match deep into injury time. A Fernando Torres solo effort gave Chelsea the lead on the hour mark and Oscar Cardozo equalised from the penalty spot just eight minutes later, setting the stage for Ivanovic’s late winner.
Chelsea won despite playing losing two key players at the weekend, Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard and veteran central defender John Terry, who both picked up injuries in Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League victory over Aston Villa. It was the second year running that Terry had to sit out a European final as he was suspended for last year’s Champions League decider and could only look on as his team beat Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich on penalties.
Benfica, which has not lifted a European trophy since 1962 when a promising 20-year-old striker called Eusebio fired in two goals to power his team to a 5-3 victory over Real Madrid, also in Amsterdam. Since that victory, Benfica has now lost all six European finals it reached and Eusebio was on hand to watch the latest defeat.
Torres, who has struggled to find the net consistently for Chelsea since his 2011 transfer from Liverpool, ignited the long-simmering match just in the 60th minute.
The Spaniard collected the ball just inside Benfica’s half, used his strength to turn and wrestle past Ezequiel Garay and then beat captain Luisao before rounding Artur and calmly slotting in the net from a tight angle. He sprinted to the corner and struck a Usain Bolt-style pose in front of the Chelsea fans.
Chelsea’s lead only lasted eight minutes before Cesar Azpilicueta handled the ball just inside the area and Cardozo smashed in the penalty to bring Benfica level.
Both sides had chances in the closing stages, with Petr Cech tipping over a dipping left-foot Cardozo volley and Lampard firing a long-range shot onto the bar in the 88th minute before Ivanovic’s match winning header five minutes later.
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