From the moment the ball left the center spot of the Amsterdam Arena, Benfica drove at the heart of the Chelsea team with a level of skill, pace and determination that the reigning European Champions just couldn’t match.
The first half possession was dominated by the Portuguese side that were often guilty of trying to walk the ball into the back of the net. But with the goals still intact at half time you couldn’t help feeling that they may have blown their best chance. Minds raced back to Saturday’s FA Cup Final between Wigan and Man City when the Wigan boss thought his side had blown it after not turning their dominance into a tangible lead before half time. Fortunately, for Wigan they managed to find that killer touch, but it would not be a case of deja vu for Benfica.
As the teams came out for the second half Chelsea must have been the happier of the two; a new lease of life if you will. Then on the 59th minute a long ball by Peter Cech saw Fernando Torres bear down on goal, and he had the strength to see off a challenge by Luisao before keeping his composure to find a route around Artur, and bury the ball in the back of the net. The often ridiculed center forward – think PaddyPower poster ads – was suddenly a reigning European Championship winner, a reigning World Cup winner, a reigning Champions League winner and possible Europa League winner to boot – is that something that will ever happen again?
As Benfica spotted the ball for the kick off you looked at the Chelsea side and just couldn’t see them giving a goal away. Then in the 68th minute Cesar Azpilicueta jumped with Salvio in the Chelsea penalty area, the ball hit his outstretched arm and the referee pointed to the spot. Oscar Cardozo stepped up to the plate and rammed the ball home to put the tie level at one a piece.
Then with both managers contemplating a further 30-minutes of extra time, followed by the specter of a penalty shoot out, Chelsea won a corner with just one minute of injury time remaining. The defenders trundled forward as Chelsea had one last chance to win the match within regulation time. The ball was swung over and Branislav Ivanovic leapt between two Benfica defenders and looped a header into the corner of the net. It was one of those headers where time stands still. The Chelsea players swarmed towards the Chelsea faithful, in celebration, and a floodgate of Portuguese tears flowed freely.
It was Chelsea’s second consecutive European triumph after winning the Champions League last May, and it was Rafa Benitez’s third major European trophy after previous victories with Valencia (UEFA Cup) and Liverpool (Champions League). Benitez will step down to make way for a potential return for Jose Mourinho, but there should be no shortage of takers for Benitez after added more silverware to his CV.
So with the match complete, and Benfica hearts broken, it was time for the trophy to be collected, and this is where the night was ruined slightly by the ego of the Chelsea Captain John Terry. Sidelined with an injury, and seated in the stands in his suit. Terry dressed down into his kit to hold the trophy aloft with Frank Lampard without even featuring in the match.
Honestly, John you just never learn, do you kid?