Thursday, 16 May 2013

Chelsea strike late to win Europa League

Chelsea have become the first side to hold the Champions League and Europa League titles simultaneously as Branislav Ivanovic's stoppage-time header earned them a 2-1 victory over Benfica in Amsterdam.
Fernando Torres' sixth goal in nine 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.
Lampard skippered Chelsea from deep midfield, where he was deployed alongside David Luiz, formerly of Benfica. Cardozo and Eduardo Salvio had efforts blocked and Nicolas Gaitan scooped a shot over with Chelsea living dangerously at the back. Lampard attempted to spark his side into life and fired a swerving shot which sent Guilherme 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 Anderson 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.
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 Juan 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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