Ivanovic’s late header earns Chelsea Europa League

Amsterdam, May 16 (IANS) A late injury-time goal by Branislav Ivanovic helped Chelsea win the Europa League football title final beating Benfica 2-1 here Wednesday night.

Benfica had the best start of the two teams, with some delightful attacking play, reports Xinhua. The Eagles from Lisbon also created the first chances with Oscar Cardozo heading over the goal, attempts of Eduardo Salvio and Cardozo blocked and Nicolas Gaitan shooting over the goal and wide.

After half an hour, Chelsea seemed to grow into the match and showed they could harm the Portuguese at the back. Captain Lampard was close to a goal after his long-distanced shot drifted away and was only just saved by goalkeeper Artur with one hand.

On the stroke of half-time Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers handed Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay a yellow card for stopping Oscar, who was about to break through the defence of Benfica. It was another warning for Benfica not to continue the second half the way they finished the first one.

Benfica seemed to have understood the message of Chelsea and started the second half just like the first one, like a whirlwind. Chances came and the Portuguese side even scored. After Gaitan’s cross Cardozo found the net with a header, but his goal was disallowed for offside.

It did not take Chelsea long to bounce back and the Champions League holders created some danger as well, with goalkeeper Artur denying a possibility of Ramires. The play moved from one side of the pitch to another with the next chance for Benfica’s Salvio save by Petr Cech. In the following counter-attack, the Blues proved to be lethal and punished Benfica.

Fernando Torres beat Benfica captain Luisao and ran into a one- on-one situation with Artur. The Spanish striker also passed the goalkeeper and scored in the 59th minute. The goal was rapidly followed by attacking substitutions in the Benfica team. Coach Jorge Jesus brought in forwards Lima and Ola John.

Benfica were awarded a golden opportunity to bounce back after referee Kuipers gave a penalty for a handball by Cesar Azpilicueta. Cardozo converted the penalty in the 68th minute with a left-footed shot through the middle of the goal.

Chelsea also claimed a penalty after a duel between Torres and Luisao in the Portuguese penalty area, but Kuipers waved the Chelsea appeals away. Meanwhile defender Garay fell out injured forcing Jesus to use his final substitute by bringing in Jardel in the 78th minute.

Cardozo had room for another highlight when the Paraguayan made Cech stretch with a strike from long range. But Frank Lampard was even closer on the other side. The captain hit the crossbar with a spectacular shot with only three minutes remaining.

Finally in injury time Chelsea did strike. Branislav Ivanovic headed in a corner to delight the Chelsea fans and to make the Benfica fans mourn. For the seventh time in a row Benfica lost a European final. The curse is not over yet.

With Eden Hazard already out with a hamstring injury, John Terry did also not make the Chelsea squad due to an ankle injury.

Frank Lampard was named captain by coach Rafael Benitez, who also lined up former Benfica players David Luiz and Ramires. Coach Jorge Jesus had to do without suspended Maximiliano Pereira and left Dutch winger Ola John on the bench.

Chelsea joined Juventus, FC Barcelona, Ajax and Bayern Munich as only clubs to have won all three major European Cup competitions: The Champions Cup, the Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Cup/Europa League. Chelsea have won the Champions League in 2012 and the Club World Cup in 1971 and 1998.

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