Fernando Torres brought an end to his 18-year playing career in August, and among the many highlights for club and country was a special night in Amsterdam, when his goal helped us win the Europa League for the first time.
Torres’s second full season at Chelsea, 2012/13, was the longest in our history, reaching an extraordinary 69 games across eight different competitions. Our defence of the Champions League had ended at the group stage, but the third-place finish guaranteed us a crack at the Europa League after Christmas. We successfully navigated our way past Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucharest, Rubin Kazan and then Basel to reach the showpiece final at the home of Ajax, where we contest another huge game tonight.
Torres was prolific in the Europa League knockout stages, scoring five goals, and he still vividly remembers that topsy-turvy campaign.
‘It was a really difficult at the beginning because we came from winning the Champions League, and we had a big expectation of trying to do it again, and then we couldn’t go through the group stage,’ Torres tells the official Chelsea website on a recent trip to Stamford Bridge.
‘We had a difficult period, but we fixed the season and we started playing really well from halfway through the season until the end.
‘We approached the Europa League with the aim of winning it. Sometimes teams who don’t qualify for the Champions League knock-out stage feel like the Europa League isn’t important enough, but it wasn’t the case for us. We really approached the competition with the aim to win.
‘We had a really good run of results and we reached the final against Benfica, who were playing so well the whole season,’ Torres continues.
‘We deserved to win that game. Benfica played well, especially in the first half, but in the second half we had chances and control. That penalty was unlucky for us. Everybody was expecting it to go to extra-time, but Ivanovic scored with that fantastic header to the far post. It was a really good goal, and well deserved by Ivanovic who did a fantastic year and competition. We were the best team in the final and in the competition.
‘I was so happy, especially for Chelsea fans. At that moment we held the Champions League and the Europa League at the same time.’
Before the harsh penalty conceded by Cesar Azpilicueta and then Branislav Ivanovic’s legendary looping header that won it, Torres had put us ahead with a superb finish on the hour, lifting the roof off the Amsterdam Arena.
‘It was a strange situation!’ he laughs.
‘I still don’t know if Juan Mata touched the ball or not! Petr Cech threw the ball with his hand really high, Mata tried to reach the ball, and then I got the ball and saw there were no more defenders than Luisao. There was a lot of space and time to run. This is what I used to do best. It was my natural situation.
‘When I dribbled past Luisao I saw the goalkeeper coming out and there was space to dribble. I waited one second before shooting, because he was following me, and then I saw the small gap. I tried to put the ball inside and it went inside. It was an important goal at that time because it gave us the lead.
‘The reaction of the fans really means more than the feeling for myself,’ adds Torres of the jubilant Chelsea celebrations behind the goal.
‘Sometimes I felt like the fans were looking forward to my goals even more than me. I felt like every time I scored an important goal they were happy because I was the goalscorer, more than because we scored a goal. I will be in debt to them forever.’