Rafa “proud” as Chelsea defeat Benfica 2-1 to lift Europa League trophy
Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez lifted his chin up high and walked around Amsterdam Arena with great pride after his side defeated Benfica 2-1 in the Europa League final on Wednesday night. The Spaniard has already packed his bags to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying every bit of success his efforts have led him to.
Rafael Benitez had a tumultuous start to his Chelsea career, with fans showing no respect and support for the club or the manager. Chelsea’s terrible campaign in the Premier League had drawn them out of contention for a Champions League spot and it was hard to fathom they would travel deep into Europa League.
Somehow, the 53-year-old managed to regain the support of his fans and reunited the team. After rallying them to the third spot on the Premier League table, Rafael Benitez and Co. set their eyes upon the Europa League title. Having previously shown immense success in the Champions League, most already expected Rafael Benitez to defeat Benfica, but the task was easier said than done.
Fernando Torres drew first blood for Chelsea in the 59th minute, thanks to terrible defending. Oscar Cardozo then lined up for a penalty-kick after Cesar Azpilicueta handled the ball. The Paraguayan made no mistake in converting the spot-kick into a goal. With the match heading towards extra time, Branislav Ivanovic took it upon himself to provide Chelsea with the winner. The Russian beautifully headed the ball from a corner to put it into the back of the net.
The victory ensures that Rafael Benitez ends his spell at Chelsea on a high note. The former Liverpool manager told ITV Sport that his job at Stamford Bridge wasn’t easy, but he was “proud” to have achieved the best of his abilities.
“I'm proud,” Rafael Benitez said. “It was not easy, we have been talking about this all the time so I am really pleased, really proud. It was a great performance in the second half. We had some problems in the first half against a very good team but I am pleased for the players and for everybody involved. They deserved it because they worked hard the whole season.”
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres was exuberant to have picked up the Europa League title. The Spain international praised Benfica’s efforts, especially their performance in the first-half of the game.
“It was a very tough game, maybe Benfica deserved a little more,” Fernando Torres said. “They were much better in the first half but individual quality made the difference. It was the final, maybe the only chance we had to win the Europa League, and we won it.”