UEFA Europa League Final 2013: Top Takeaways for Chelsea in Victory
It might not have been easy all the time, or as convincing as some would have wanted, but Chelsea emerged victorious in the 2013 UEFA Europa League Final.
After being outplayed by Benfica for the majority of the first half, the Blues were able to hang in defensively and then sneak a goal on the counterattack to Fernando Torres. That was soon cancelled out by a penalty for the Portuguese giants, but they would clinch the trophy when Branislas Ivanovic headed home in injury time.
The win marks the first time that any club has held both the Champions League and the Europa League at the same time. And for Chelsea, it marks a strong end to an otherwise frustrating year and gives them another European trophy to add to the collection—albeit different to the one they would have originally wanted.
Read on to see the top takeaways for the Londoners in their victory.
Defensive Resilience Against Free-Flowing Attack
Particularly in the first half, the story was all about Benfica's free-flowing attack.
From the moment they picked the ball up in defense, Benfica looked like threatening the Blues' defense as they quickly shifted the ball around their attack.
And yes, there were some key chances found by the Portuguese giants, but thanks to the defensive resilience of Chelsea, they were able to hang in there and keep a clean sheet heading into half time—despite having next to no possession to their name.
38% - Chelsea had just 38% of possession in the first half vs Benfica, some way short of their PL season average of 55%. Subdued.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 15, 2013
The Blues didn't panic when they came under mounting pressure and were able to hold their line well, with Gary Cahill one of the real standouts at the back.
Even when the game was seemingly over at 2-1, Cahill came up with a key block in the final seconds to ensure victory. Many players would have been forgiven for switching off, but like they'd done for the vast majority of the game, Chelsea were found to be be strong at the back and more than ready for Benfica's attack.
They were outclassed and outplayed, sure, but they hung on for victory.
And as they showed in the Champions League against Barcelona and Bayern Munich last season, sometimes that's all you need to do for success.
Capitalized on Chances When Available
Benfica manager Jorge Jesus said in his post-match comments that "for most of the 93 minutes, we were better than Chelsea"—and it's hard to disagree.
They moved the ball better and they attacked more efficiently.
However, what they couldn't do was take their chances. And in the end, that proved to be the difference for the West London club en route to the title.
WhoScored.com has Chelsea chalking up 12 shots in the match, but it's hard to remember the Blues having such attacking presence. The vast majority of the game was them trying to win the ball back in midfield and quickly scurry forward whenever they got opportunities that they could score from, and it was that mentality that ultimately managed to win it for the Blues.
Torres scored on a counterattack when the chance came to him. He didn't really have another chance on the night, but he made it count when his side needed him.
The same goes for Ivanovic, who was the unlikely hero of the night.
Chelsea had few clear goal-scoring chances fall their way on the night, but they were able to take advantage of the limited opportunities they did have.
And in the end, that proved to be the difference between the two teams.
Frank Lampard Continuing to Dominate
However, perhaps the greatest takeaway for Chelsea fans following the win was the continual dominance of club legend Frank Lampard.
After becoming the club's leading goal-scorer in history during the season, Lampard again showed that he was more than capable of mixing it on the world stage.
He didn't score, but he was the Blues' best attacking player on the night, and very nearly netted two incredible goals from distance (both highlighted below).
And for Chelsea, the great news is that the 34-year-old looks set to sign a new summer contract with the West Londoners, according to ITV (h/t Sky Sports):
I really, really hope so [on signing a new deal]. We haven't sat down completely on it, but I hope so and the club's been brilliant so it looks good.
Benitez was also quick to praise Lampard, calling him a "great professional," which is perhaps exactly what most Chelsea fans are saying after the season he's had.
Fabulous celebrations here in Amsterdam ArenA. Lampard milking the moment. And deservedly so. Proper legend. #cfc— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) May 15, 2013
Lampard has been exceptional, and he thoroughly deserves to stay on.
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