One year after winning the Champions League, Chelsea adds a Europa League trophy to its accomplishments with a 2-1 victory over Benfica.
Playing at Amsterdam Arena in the Netherlands, the English club did not always seem like the better squad. However, it redeemed an up-and-down season with a strong finish to earn yet another major trophy.
The first half was a bit of a struggle for both sides as neither was able to get onto the scoreboard. Of course, there were a lot of chances.
Benfica had a lot of attempts inside the box and even got four shots on net. However, the closest person to scoring was Frank Lampard when he fired the ball from the left side of the box, but it was miraculously saved by Artur.
Chelsea was unable to grab the lead, and the two teams went into the intermission all square at 0-0. Fortunately, there was much more action in the second half, much to the amusement of the fans in Amsterdam Arena.
Oscar Cardozo almost had the first goal of the match on a header in the 51st minute, although he was barely offsides. Cafefree Chronicles posted a picture of the call:
Cardozo offside call very very tight. http://t.co/1ECGb9DzDA5/15/2013, 7:55:31 PM
Finally, Fernando Torres broke the tie with a score after being one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He made a move to his right and squeezed the ball into the back of the net to give Chelsea a 1-0 edge.
Of course, this lead did not last long. Only nine minutes following the first score, Benfica earned a penalty kick after a César Azpilicueta handball in the box. Cardozo took full advantage of this opportunity and pushed it past Petr Cech for the equalizer.
The two clubs then traded opportunities as time continued to pass, but it seemed like the match was going to go into extra time. That was until Branislav Ivanovic came through with arguably the biggest goal of the season.
In the 93rd minute, the defender took a corner kick and placed a header perfectly into the top-right corner of the net past the goalkeeper to give Chelsea a 2-1 advantage.
The English club then held on for the victory to control both major European trophies at one time.
Cristian Nyari of the Bundesliga Fanatic discusses what this victory means in a historical perspective:
Cristian Nyari @Cnyari
Chelsea join Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax in a truly elite group of clubs that have won all three major European club competitions.5/15/2013, 8:43:30 PM
Both sides had higher hopes for the season after beginning the year in the Champions League. However, a third-place finish in the first phase knocked them down to the Europa League.
Still, this is a very impressive finish for Chelsea to help end the year on a high note.
The Blues have not been as strong in the English Premier League this year, but it will almost definitely be a part of Champions League next season as one of the top four clubs in the league table. This will give them a chance to continue their strong play on the European level.
On the other hand, Benfica still has a chance to win the Portuguese Liga season title. It trails FC Porto by one point with one match remaining, so earning a domestic trophy is not out of the question.
Fernando Torres, Chelsea: A-
There are a lot of negative things that are often said about Fernando Torres. The forward has been a general disappointment since coming to Chelsea from Liverpool.
However, he had a big moment in this match by scoring a goal to give his side the early advantage. This was actually his sixth Europa League goal after scoring only seven during the league season. Still, fans should be excited about his strong contributions in this one.
Gary Cahill, Chelsea: A
Despite the fact that Benfica had numerous possessions in the final third, the club was unable to get too many very good shots on net. A big reason is the defense of Chelsea, especially by Gary Cahill.
The veteran played generally mistake-free through much of the match and was almost always in front of his opponent, which kept this a low-scoring match.
Oscar Cardozo, Benfica: A+
There were few players on the pitch more aggressive throughout the match than Oscar Cardozo. He made great runs to the net and was usually able to either take a shot when he was open or find a teammate with a nice pass when he was not.
After a few close calls in the first half, he was able to score on a penalty kick to tie up the match. He was a huge part of the offense throughout the match and was probably the best player on the pitch, even in a losing effort.
Artur, Benfica: B+
Chelsea had a lot of opportunities around the net, but Artur almost single-handedly kept his squad in the match with a number of great plays. The goalkeeper made a spectacular save on Frank Lampard and had other important stops on shots and crosses.
While he did give up two goals, neither of them were easy stops and few, if any, goalies in the world would have made a stop on either attempt.
|D||César Azpilicueta ||C-|
|D||Ezequiel Garay (Off 78')||B-|
|D||Lorenzo Melgarejo (Off 66')||B|
|M||Nemanja Matic ||B+|
|F||Rodrigo (Off 65')||B-|
|M||Ola John (On 66') ||B|
|F||Lima (On 65') ||B+|
|D||Jardel (On 78') ||B-|
With a two point lead over Arsenal and three points ahead of Tottenham in the EPL, Chelsea can clinch third place with a home victory over Everton. A loss could allow Arsenal to pass the squad, but there is a large enough point differential to remain in at least fourth.
Benfica is playing for higher stakes with a chance to win the Portuguese Liga. It has a home match against Moreirense on Sunday, and it needs FC Porto to either lose or draw.
While the first-place squad has not lost a match in the league all season, anything is possible with the title on the line.