|Europa League Trophy|
The match started on a very good note for the Benfica players as they clearly dominated the first half, making the Blues look ordinary. The Portuguese team mesmerized the audience as they dribbled and distributed their passes with precision. However, poor finishing was to cost them the trophy later as they failed to take their chances especially in the first half.
|Chelsea Players celebrate|
Thrice Benfica came close to scoring in the first half but they were denied by the solid defense. It also seemed that luck was against them as they could not utilize their clear chances. They lost golden opportunities in the 12th and 16th minutes and got punished later in the second half by their opponent.
Frank Lampard’s direct shot on goal from outside the yard box in the 38th minute was parried away by Benfica’s keeper who had almost moved out of the ball’s track but stretched his left arm to push the on-coming ball away. Chelsea were a complete shadow of themselves in the first half, but on returning after half time, their pattern of game changed immensely to a more purposeful, attacking football.
The first goal of the night came in the 60th minute through Fernando Torres as Petr Cech sent a straight cross to the midfield after Benfica’s onslaught failed to yield the needed result. Juan Mata collected Cech’s cross and laid a pass to Torres who cleverly beat both the defenders and the on-rushing goal keeper to slot the ball into an empty net. However, in the 67th minute, Benfica got an equalizer after Cesar Azpilicueta handled the ball in the yard box. The resultant penalty was smashed home by Oscar Cardozo to make him the highest scorer of the tournament with 7 goals.
Chelsea pushed forward and Frank Lampard once again narrowly missed out from giving the English side the winning goal as his volley hit the cross bar in the process. They continued to fight on. And then the 90 minutes of play were over, with 3 minutes added injury time. Ramires won a corner kick in the last minute of the added time and it was taken by Juan Mata. Ivanovic was right on time to nod home the corner kick thereby ending Benfica’s hopes of lifting the Europa League trophy this season.
Chelsea had the opportunity of winning 7 trophies this season but they lost the World Club Cup to Corinthians of Brazil, lost the Community Shield to Manchester City and also lost the UEFA Super Cup to Athletico Madrid. In addition, they got to the semi final stages of the English League Cup and the FA Cups respectively but failed to advance to the final. Finally, they lost the English Premier League title to Manchester United. The Europa League therefore became their only hope of winning a silverware this season.
Chelsea’s interim coach Rafael Benitez was obviously the happiest man of the night as he wrote his name on marble once again, having previously won the UEFA Champion’s League with Liverpool and the Club world Cup with Inter Milan. Now he has added the 2nd Europa League trophy to his collection of trophies. Even if he leaves Chelsea at the end of the season, he would leave with his shoulders tall.