Rating the Chelsea Players Against Benfica

Joe Krishnan@joekrishnanContributor IMay 15, 2013

Rating the Chelsea Players Against Benfica

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    It was far from pretty. It required work, determination and grit. But Chelsea got there in the end. They always do.

    A stoppage-time header from Branislav Ivanovic gave Chelsea a dramatic victory over Benfica at the Amsterdam ArenA after Fernando Torres' opener was cancelled out by Oscar Cardozo's penalty.

    Much like their Champions League triumph just under a year ago, Chelsea were on the back foot, but somehow their interim manager Rafa Benitez inspired his side and rallied them as they fought for victory.

    It was cruel on Benfica, who can be heartened by their exciting, high-intensity play. But winning European finals is becoming a knack for the West Londoners.

    After such a tense encounter, here's how the heroic Blues fared in our ratings. 

GK: Petr Cech

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    The mental attribute that separates the good from the great is usually how they bounce back from disappointment.

    And after his below-par performance at the weekend, Petr Cech showed once again why he is regarded as one of the world's best goalkeepers.

    Benfica had many attempts on goal but only a few tested Cech. However, the Czech Republic 'keeper had to be on hand to deny Oscar Cardozo as the Paraguayan volleyed toward goal, and it was a fine save.

    The 29-year-old maintained his composure also in the dying seconds when Cardozo broke through on goal, and despite a magnificent clearance from Gary Cahill, you always felt Cech had the chance covered.

    An assured performance from a truly great goalkeeper.

    Rating: 7.5/10

RB: Cesar Azpilicueta

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    Cesar Azpilicueta always knew it would be a difficult night as he started his first European final, and up against the talented Nico Gaitan, he endured a torrid time.

    The Argentine used his pace and trickery to twist and turn the Spaniard, and as the former Marseille man got further forward, the space was exploited by the 25-year-old Gaitan.

    In addition, Azpilicueta gave Benfica a way back into the match after raising his hands in the penalty area, no doubt showing his naivety as a young defender, and prompting the referee to point to the spot.

    He did make a crucial intervention as Cardozo laid the ball off to Rodrigo with the goal gaping, and so perhaps his mistake was evened out somewhat.

    At 23, he is still learning as a professional and will hopefully use his error as a springboard for further development, but he will need to learn fast to keep his place in the side.

    Rating: 5.5/10

CB: Gary Cahill

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    As I've mentioned previously, Gary Cahill has shown two sides to his character in football: vulnerable and lacking composure. The other? A defiant, brave defender ready to put his body on the line.

    In the Europa League final, the 27-year-old showed both sides once again, as throughout the game he was bullied by the dangerous forward Oscar Cardozo, and Cahill got far too tight to his marker.

    The England international was at times wasteful on the ball too, launching long balls without finding a blue shirt and giving Benfica possession to put pressure on his side. Nevertheless, he gave 100 percent and won almost every aerial duel he attempted, and his effort was an example to follow.

    Chelsea's last-minute winner may have not been the final action in the game if it wasn't for the ex-Bolton man, though. Cardozo was through on goal, and as the ball slipped away from Ivanovic, Cahill somehow scooped the ball away from danger.

    Ivanovic may have stole the limelight, but Cahill maintained it. A solid performance, the future looks bright for the former Aston Villa defender.

    Rating: 7.0/10

CB: Branislav Ivanovic

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    The match winner came from an unlikely source, yet Branislav Ivanovic does chip in with a few important goals every now and then.

    The Serbian international rose up and met Juan Mata's corner with no challenge whatsoever, and although that will disappoint Benfica coach Jorge Jesus, the delight from Chelsea was clear to see.

    Fans, players, staff. Everyone was up in the air. It was a sensational header, especially in the 93rd minute of the game.

    Ivanovic was excellent throughout, keeping Spain starlet Rodrigo under wraps and his replacement Lima, showing that centre-back is without question his best position.

    Displaying a superb work rate throughout, Ivanovic will be renowned as the hero for some time as he snatched victory from under the noses of the devastated Portuguese giants.

    Rating: 8.0/10

LB: Ashley Cole

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    Ashley Cole is world renowned for striding up and down the left touchline for a solid 90 minutes, but a talented Argentinian winger meant that the England veteran was kept in his own half.

    The 32-year-old had to be on hand to defend against Eduardo Salvio, who was causing Cole some problems down the flank, and certainly got some excellent crosses into the area.

    Other than the odd chance, Cole kept his composure and enjoyed a solid game, albeit more quiet than usual.

    A fairly average performance for the ex-Arsenal man, he rarely puts a foot wrong and showed his consistency once again.

    Rating: 6.5/10

CM: David Luiz

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    It's never easy playing in a European final, but to win against the club where you made your name is an added weight on the shoulders of David Luiz.

    The Brazilian signed for Chelsea from Benfica in 2011, and in each of the last two seasons, he has come up against his former employers.

    The 26-year-old was moved into the midfield role as John Obi Mikel was ruled out through injury, and the switch was a shrewd decision from Rafa Benitez.

    Displaying his excellent technical ability, his passes in between the lines found his Chelsea teammates time and time again, and Luiz was definitely a force in midfield.

    Perhaps the long season means he was unable to chase as much as he normally does, but putting in a decent shift on an emotional night against his previous club highlighted his growth as a footballer.

    Rating: 7.0/10

CM: Frank Lampard

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    Frank Lampard is a superb example of how a fine wine only gets better with age, with the 34-year-old showing true leadership and passion to guide his teammates to a second consecutive European final.

    After becoming the club's all-time goalscorer at the weekend, the England international may have realized it could be his last game as a Chelsea player. Perhaps that gave him the extra buzz that the others were missing.

    Certainly, his 25-yard stunner that crashed against the crossbar could have stolen the headlines instead of Ivanovic, but that wasn't his only contribution.

    Up against his former teammate Nemanja Matic and the tireless Ernesto Perez, his stamina for a player of his age is admirable and he certainly held his own.

    He fought, he rallied and, sure enough, Lampard won his second European title with Chelsea. With this performance, the club must hand him a new deal.

    Rating: 7.5/10 

RM: Ramires

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    In a tactical move that was almost identical to his predecessor, Rafa Benitez opted to move Ramires out to the right-hand side to nullify the threat posed by Nicolas Gaitan.

    Roberto Di Matteo started Ryan Bertrand in a similar role in last year's Champions League final, and Ramires, to his credit, must have covered the most distance on the pitch Wednesday night.

    As well as coming back to defend, the tireless midfielder also made significant surges forward and had a few efforts blocked. His work rate was sensational as ever, and his part in the winner was winning the corner from which Ivanovic scored from.

    His only black mark was his tendency to give away free-kicks in dangerous positions, and how the referee failed to caution him is a mystery.

    Nevertheless, his sentiment toward his former club was evident to see, but after missing last year's final through suspension, Ramires will be happy to finally play a major part in the European success.

    Rating: 8.0/10

ACM: Juan Mata

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    A quiet game by his standards. But rarely is there an occasion where Chelsea score a goal without Juan Mata having a part in it.

    Looking jaded and overrun by the physical strength of Nemanja Matic, the Spaniard did his best to link the midfield and attack, dropping into pockets of space and even moving out wide to get the ball.

    His part in the opener was typical of the 25-year-old magician: a throw from Petr Cech reached the ex-Valencia man in midfield and his flick to compatriot Fernando Torres was simply sublime.

    After experiencing a quiet period in the second half, who else but Mata stepped up to deliver a stunning ball into the area that Ivanovic headed home.

    Another two assists to add to his collection, the PFA Player of the Year nominee showed just how crucial he is to the team once again. A joy to behold.

    Rating: 7.5/10

LM: Oscar

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    With Chelsea missing the electric Eden Hazard, it was up to their other summer recruit, Oscar, to provide the spark from the left-hand side.

    Up against rookie defender Andre Almeida, the Brazilian as always put in a sufficient work rate, cutting inside from the left to try and create chances for his teammates.

    His solitary effort on goal was saved by Artur and, after being booked, had a quiet time on the left wing.

    It did appear that the occasion may have got the better of the 21-year-old, who had appeared in 62 games prior to Wednesday's final. Perhaps wrapping up the win in 90 minutes would have been a relief.

    Nobody can fault his effort, and despite not having a direct impact on the game, Oscar showed his growing maturity as a quality footballer.

    Rating: 6.5/10 

ST: Fernando Torres

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    He has endured a whirlwind of abuse from the media for his lack of form since arriving at Stamford Bridge for £50 million two years ago, but finally, it seems Fernando Torres has proven his worth.

    The Spaniard looked eager to impress from the start, chasing down the opposition defence and causing havoc in between Ezequiel Garay and Luisao. 

    Torres showed glimpses of his struggling self, with a few stray touches and looked to be out of luck at some points.

    But after starting on the bench in last year's Champions League final, his moment arrived when Juan Mata's threaded flick found the 29-year-old's path. He skipped past Garay and brilliantly handled the challenge from Luisao.

    The Brazilian tried everything he could to legally stop Torres but the pace shown was extraordinary, and Benfica's captain watched in despair as the former Liverpool striker Torres raced past Artur and slotted home the opening goal.

    The goal epitomized Torres' improved season and perhaps it indicated that his form was back for good. You can't help but be pleased for the striker. He worked his socks off, and aside from Lampard, there is no other player deserving of the winners' medal.

    Rating: 8.5/10 - Man of the Match


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