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Benfica 1 Chelsea 2

Europa League final - 15 May 2013

No side had won the Champions League and Europa League (or their previous incarnations) in successive season this way round before. But then no defending champion of Europe had suffered an exit at the group stage since the format change in 1992.

Extending the connection between the two campaigns, our opponents in the final at the Amsterdam Arena were Benfica, beaten en route to Munich in 2011/12. It was to be a free-flowing game but with few clear-cut chances and the Blues, interim manager Rafael Benítez in the technical area, gradually took a grip after half-time.

Straight after a save from Salvio’s head, Petr Cech hurled a long throw to Juan Mata, who cleverly flicked on to set Fernando Torres free. The Spaniard shrugged off Luisao and rounded Arthur to score.

The Blues might have been bankers to hold out for the remaining half-hour, but fortune had a twist in store when Cesar Azpilicueta was adjudged to have handled a flicked pass. Cardozo made no mistake from the spot and extra time loomed again, especially after Frank Lampard’s fizzing 30-yarder cannoned back off the bar.

Yet in the last minute, in circumstances similar to Munich, Ramires forced a corner on the right. Juan Mata took it and placed it deep, where Branislav Ivanovic, rising high and purposefully, looped a header back across goal and over the line to make it 2-1.

Even in the dying moments Gary Cahill had to produce a world-class challenge to deny Cardozo from close range, but the match, the trophy and the spoils were Chelsea’s.

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