Chelsea win Europa League with stoppage-time header

Chelsea win Europa League with stoppage-time header

Benfica 1 Chelsea 2

Chelsea tonight became the first side to hold the Champions League and Europa League titles simultaneously as Branislav Ivanovic’s stoppage-time header earned victory over Benfica in Amsterdam.

Fernando Torres’ sixth goal in six Europa League games gave the 2012 Champions League winners a lead which was cancelled out by a penalty from Oscar Cardozo, awarded for handball against Cesar Azpilicueta.

Frank Lampard hit the bar in the 88th minute before the winner came from the most unlikely source as defender Ivanovic, who missed last May’s Champions League win through suspension, headed in a corner in the first minute of stoppage time.

For 10 days Chelsea are holders of both Europe’s club trophies after inflicting Benfica’s seventh successive defeat in European finals. The Portuguese side’s 51-year wait for glory goes on.

Much derided interim boss Rafael Benitez has now delivered silverware to make Chelsea the fourth side – after Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich – to win all UEFA’s top competitions.

The Londoners won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970/71 and 1997/98 and the Champions League last season.

That Champions League success came under an interim coach following a sacking earlier in the campaign – and history has repeated itself in Amsterdam.

It brings Chelsea a trophy at the eighth attempt this season and with a Champions League return all-but assured ahead of Sunday’s 69th and final game of the season at home to Everton, Benitez has fulfilled his brief since succeeding Roberto Di Matteo as boss in November.

His successor could be Jose Mourinho, who led Porto to successive European titles before joining Chelsea in 2004.

It was never going to be straightforward against Mourinho’s compatriots, a side Chelsea met for the first time last year en route to Munich.

The task was tougher still when Eden Hazard was ruled out with a hamstring injury and captain John Terry, who missed the 2012 Champions League final through suspension, suffered further final heartache due to an ankle injury.

As in Munich, Lampard, who is reported to be close to agreeing a contract extension, skippered Chelsea from deep midfield, where he was deployed alongside David Luiz, formerly of Benfica.

After Cardozo headed an early effort off target, Ramires, the other ex-Benfica player in blue, was rugby tackled by Nemanja Matic, who moved to Lisbon from London as part of the Luiz deal and avoided a yellow card.

Cardozo and Eduardo Salvio had efforts blocked and Nicolas Gaitan scooped a shot over with Chelsea living dangerously at the back.

If Chelsea were fortunate in defence, they had little luck in attack as a Juan Mata through ball intended for Ramires deflected off Oscar and out for a goal kick.

Oscar had Chelsea’s first shot after 27 minutes, firing straight at Artur before Benfica, with Matic influential in midfield, again enjoyed a period of dominance against a shaky Blues defence.

Lampard, who became Chelsea’s record goalscorer last Saturday, attempted to spark his side into life and fired a swerving shot which sent Artur the wrong way, only for the goalkeeper to stick out a left hand to turn the ball over.

Chelsea’s rearguard action continued either side of the interval as Gary Cahill and Azpilicueta conceded corners with Benfica players lurking menacingly.

Cardozo headed the ball in the net in the 51st minute but was adjudged to be offside as Chelsea survived once more before pouncing when another Benfica attack broke down.

After saving a Salvio header, Cech threw the ball down the centre of the pitch which reached Torres in the centre circle.

The Spaniard beat the lumbering Luisao for pace and then approached Artur, where the ball appeared to stick under his feet.

But Torres dug it out enough to round the goalkeeper and find the net from a narrow angle to continue his Europa League hot streak.

Luisao was booked soon afterwards for a challenge on Torres, who has not scored in the Barclays Premier League in 2013.

Benfica swiftly levelled through their own prolific marksman.

Azpilicueta was penalised for handball and Cardozo struck the penalty down the centre for his seventh of the Europa League campaign.

Torres continued to look lively and bamboozled Luisao before going down, but penalty appeals were waved away.

Cardozo struck a dipping volley which Cech turned over for a corner and the Paraguay striker then was unable to turn the set-piece goalwards.

Chelsea had opportunities, too, the best when Lampard hit the crossbar with a trademark right-footed effort from the edge of the box.

With extra-time looming Ramires won a corner, which Mata floated into the box.

Ivanovic peeled away to the back post and his arching header left Artur flat footed as the ball drifted into the corner.

Chelsea still had to repel another Cardozo effort before the celebrations could begin.

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