Wednesday May 15 2013
Chelsea win last-gasp Europa Final

Branislav Ivanovic snatched the Europa League Final 2-1 for Chelsea deep into stoppages despite Benfica’s overall domination of the game.

Both these sides started the season in the Champions League, but were knocked down to the Europa League and reached the Final in Amsterdam. Eden Hazard and John Terry missed out due to injury.

The Portuguese giants had clearly the stronger opening to the game, pinning Chelsea back and creating several chances.

Nicolas Gaitan blasted over after some wonderful one-touch football, while Rodrigo slipped when trying to turn in from seven yards, as the Blues defence desperately scrambled clear. Former Roma third choice goalkeeper Artur had his palms stung by an Oscar snapshot, but Benfica remained in control and Gaitan curled over from the edge of the box with his weaker foot.

Chelsea finally came out of their shells just before half-time when Frank Lampard unleashed a strike that moved in the air, but Artur readjusted mid-air to flap it over with his trailing glove. After the restart Cesar Azpilicueta crucially cleared to intercept before Rodrigo could tap in. Cardozo had the ball in the back of the net on 50 minutes, but the header was ruled offside from a Gaitan cross in an extremely tight decision.

Despite all the chances and the pressure, Benfica went behind to Chelsea on the hour mark. It was classic route one football, as Petr Cech’s goal kick went all the way up to Fernando Torres, who shrugged off Luisao and went round Artur to deposit into an empty net from a tight angle.

Benfica got the opportunity to re-enter the match with a penalty due to Azpilicueta’s handling offence. Oscar Cardozo powerfully converted the spot-kick and suffered cramp in the progress.

Torres had penalty appeals, but the referee waved play on as he let himself fall to the ground far too easily. Cech flew to fingertip a Cardozo shot on the volley over the crossbar, while Luisao performed a crucial tackle as Ramires was pulling the trigger from eight yards.

Lampard had another sensational strike from distance and this time it beat Artur only to smack against the frame of the goal at the 87th minute.

It proved a warning, as deep into stoppages Branislav Ivanovic got a looping free header to a corner that slotted into the far top corner past a helpless Artur.

There was still time for another scare, as Ivanovic failed to clear and Gary Cahill dived in to stop Cardozo tapping in from six yards.

Benfica 1-2 Chelsea

Scorers: Torres 59 (C), Cardozo pen 68 (B), Ivanovic 92 (C)

Benfica: Artur; Andre Almeida, Luisao, Garay (Jardel 77), Melgarejo (Ola John 65); Perez, Matic, Rodrigo; (Lima 65) Gaitan, Oscar Cardozo, Salvio

Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Lampard, David Luiz; Ramires, Juan Mata, Oscar; Torres

Ref: Kuipers (NED)

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