Benfica 1 Chelsea 2: Three lessons as Blues win the Europa League
Benfica 1 Chelsea 2: What lessons did we learn as the Blues grabbed a dramatic winner to claim the Europa League trophy?
Chelsea recover from poor first-half showing
Following a goalless first half between the two sides, the Europa League final finally burst into life following the restart as Chelsea began to play with a little more purpose and style. But throughout the opening period, the Blues looked rather lacklustre in their efforts and simply didn’t appear to be anything like the finished article. Having been hampered with injuries following their recent Premier League victory over Aston Villa, it seemed as though the London-based side were beginning to suffer the consequences of being unable to field their first-string team. In truth, the absence of Eden Hazard contributed to their off-kilter performance as they failed to find an outlet for many of their first-half opportunities. Rafael Benítez’s team-talk would have warranted a speech of Istanbul-like proportions, and it seemed that whatever he said, it worked a treat.
Benfica unable to find finishing touch
It was Jorge Jesus’s charges who started the brightest of the pair, and through their intricate play and ability to string together beautiful, flowing passing sequences, they managed to confuse and harass the Chelsea back four time and time again. It seemed only a matter of time before the Portuguese outfit would break the deadlock, however, they simply couldn’t out away any of their chances. And, with the scores still level at the break, it seemed as though Chelsea had dodged a bullet.
Benítez grabs another European honour
Right on the hour mark, it was Fernando Torres who eventually managed to rattle the net. The goal was a huge contrast to the attacking style put on show by Benfica in the first half and, in truth it came against the run of play. Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech threw a long ball from his own box deep into midfield to Torres, whose change of pace and fleet of foot helped him round the opposition shot stopper and slot the ball into the empty net. The strike prompted a swift response from Benfica who drew level less then 10 minutes later through an Óscar Cardozo penalty. However, Branislav Ivanović’s dramatic late headed winner meant that Benfica would find no way back and that Benítez would claim yet another European honour. The goal is likely to have sparked a number of celebrations across London and Amsterdam as Chelsea have now grabbed their second consecutive European honour.