Chelsea win Europa League
Chelsea were crowned Europa League Champions after a 2-1 win over Benfica.
AMSTERDAM - Branislav Ivanovic made up for the heartbreak of missing last year's Champions League triumph by heading a dramatic stoppage-time goal to lead Chelsea to a 2-1 win over Benfica in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
The Serbian defender, sidelined for the final against Bayern Munich 12 months ago through suspension, climbed high at the far post to meet Juan Mata's corner with a looping header that arched over keeper Artur and into the back of the net.
The goal sent the London club's blue-decked fans into raptures.
Fernando Torres had put Chelsea in front with a well-taken solo goal in the 59th minute before Oscar Cardozo replied for Benfica from the penalty spot nine minutes later after Cesar Azpilicueta handled in the box.
"This is a great feeling…The team deserved this because we have had a very difficult season and a lot of games. We deserve that trophy." Ivanovic told ITV Sport.
Victory also allowed interim manager Rafa Benitez, who took over from Roberto Di Matteo when the Champions League-winning Italian was sacked in November, to pick up his first piece of silverware at the London club.
The Spaniard will leave at the end of the campaign, with media reports suggesting Jose Mourinho is quitting Real Madrid to return for a second stint in charge at Chelsea.
Benfica, started the game brighter and Paraguayan sharpshooter Oscar Cardozo headed over from close range in the second minute.
The Portuguese side, desperate to end a run of six straight defeats in European finals, also went close 12 minutes later when Chelsea had to hack the ball to safety following a goalmouth scramble.
With their animated coach Jorge Jesus gesticulating wildly from the touchline, Benfica looked in complete control.
Chelsea snatched the lead as Torres struck with a goal reminiscent of his wonder strike in last season's Champions League semifinal in Barcelona.
A throw from keeper Petr Cech was flicked on near the halfway line by Mata and Torres streaked clear before calmly rounding Artur and slotting the ball into the empty net from a tight angle.
Torres marked his ninth goal of the season in European competition by dropping to his knees and celebrating in Usain Bolt fashion by pointing his right arm skywards.
Oscar Cardozo levelled for Benfica with his own ninth European strike of the campaign, driving the ball straight down the middle of the goal from the penalty spot after Cesar Azpilicueta unnecessarily handled in the area.
The Benfica fans paraded a huge 50-metre banner at their end of the Amsterdam Arena stadium proclaiming 'Nos Acreditamos' (we believe).
A visibly emotional Jorge Jesus later seemed to indicate his days might be numbered at Benfica.
The win meant Chelsea became the first English club to win all three of UEFA's major trophies.
Ajax Amsterdam, Bayern Munich and Juventus are the only other teams to have won the Europa League, European Cup and the now defunct Cup Winners' Cup.