After what had been an interesting season in the Europa League, the day had come for this season’s kings to finally get their crown. It would be either SL Benfica or Chelsea, Portugal or England, Red or Blue. One thing was sure, however: whoever would win it would be, having survived a long and challenging season in the Europa League, worthy and deserving of the crown. And so the stage was all set for an exciting Europa League Final.
The game started, as expected, with both sides hungry for early goals to slow down their opponents. Oscar Cardozo had the first attempt in the second minute, but sent the ball over Petr Cech and over the crossbar. As Benfica had a very offensive line-up, it was not surprising to see them in their opponents’ half, trying to create chances. Attempts came for Oscar Cardozo, Eduardo Salvio, and Nicolas Gaitan, but Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic all managed to protect their goalkeeper.
The first real chance for Chelsea came after 27 minutes for Oscar Dos Santos, but Artur Moraes stretched well to save. The remaining 18 minutes plus added time of the first half were all Benfica, with Chelsea confined to their own half. At this point, it looked as though Benfica would score first unless Chelsea were to come out of the dressing room stronger and quicker on the ball.
The best attempt in the first half came from Oscar Cardozo in the 42nd minute. Having picked up an Enzo Perez cross, the 30-year-old Paraguayan center-forward headed in the direction of the net at close range and was only prevented by Chelsea’s Gary Cahill. It surely otherwise would have been a goal.
Chelsea knew they needed to start the second half faster, and so start the second half faster they did! 15 minutes into the half, after Chelsea had had enough of Benfica’s attempts, Fernando Torres broke the deadlock thanks to a brilliant assist by Juan Mata. Petr Cech’s throw found Juan Mata, who delivered well to Fernando Torres who in turn managed to run past Luisao and confuse Artur. Luisao knew, now more than ever, that he couldn’t afford to slip again.
Chelsea’s lead didn’t last too long, however, and they ended up being the providers of a Benfica equalizer. After a double-substitution by Benfica (Lima Dos Santos and Ola John on for Rodrigo Machado and Lorenzo Melgarejo respectively), Cesar Azpilicueta handled the ball inside the penalty area, and the referee pointed to the spot. Oscar Cardozo took the penalty and, as expected by the Benfica faithful, Petr Cech was defeated. With 20 minutes still to play, both sides tried everything they could to win the game in normal time. Jorge Jesus made his final substitution (Jardel Vieira for Ezequiel Garay) 10 minutes later, and the tempo of the Benfica game went a bit higher. Rafael Benitez made no substitutions, but his side was visibly also very hungry.
During the last 10 minutes: Cardozo shot - Petr Cech saved, Jardel shot - missed, Ramires shot - Luisao blocked, Azpilicueta shot - Artur saved, Lampard shot - hit the woodwork, and all that until, finally, in the last 70 seconds of the game, a winner emerged. 3 minutes were added on at the end of the normal 90 and both managers urged their sides on, hoping not to concede any free-kicks or corners.
Unfortunately for Benfica, however, they did just that. Having conceded a last-minute corner, Benfica tried to ensure nothing would come out of it, not noticing Branislav Ivanovic creep up behind them. The 29-year-old Serbian center-back rose, headed, and after the ball seemed to travel in slow motion towards the top-left corner of the Benfica net, scored, winning the Europa League for his side. The final whistle was blown a few seconds after the game had resumed, and Chelsea, having done so well to keep their opponents from scoring, were crowned 2013 Europa League Champions.
Benfica may have been ahead on statistics, but just as they had done in Munich a year before, Chelsea emerged “underdog winners.” As anyone who’s been involved in a game will tell you, sometimes one needs more than just dominance to win a European Final. Sometimes, all one needs is simply a little bit of luck.
- Possession: Benfica (53%) | Chelsea (47%)
- Total Attempts: Benfica (17) | Chelsea (11)
- % on Target: Benfica (64.7%) | Chelsea (63.4%)
- Corners: Benfica (4) | Chelsea (4)
- Free-kicks: Benfica (22) | Chelsea (18)
- Saves: Benfica (3) | Chelsea (3)
- Offsides: Benfica (1) | Chelsea (8)
- Fouls: Benfica (18) | Chelsea (18)
- Yellow Cards: Benfica (2) | Chelsea (1)
- Red Cards: Benfica (0) | Chelsea (0)
- Substitutions: Benfica (3) | Chelsea (0)
Jorge Jesus and Rafael Benitez lined up the following squads:
Benfica Starting XI (4-3-3)
Artur Moraes | Andre Almeida, Ezequiel Garay, Luisao Da Silva (c), Lorenzo Melgarejo | Nemanja Matic, Enzo Perez, Rodrigo Machado | Eduardo Salvio, Nicolas Gaitan, Oscar Cardozo
Subs: Paulo Lopes, Jardel Vieira, Pablo Aimar, Andre Gomes, Urreta Da Luz, Lima Dos Santos, and Ola John
Chelsea Starting XI (4-2-3-1)
Petr Cech | Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole | Frank Lampard (c), David Luiz | Ramires Nascimiento, Juan Mata, Oscar Dos Santos | Fernando Torres
Subs: Ross Turnbull, Nathan Ake, Paulo Ferreira, Yossi Benayoun, Marko Marin, John Obi Mikel, and Victor Moses
Final Score: SL Benfica 1-2 Chelsea
Torres 60′, Ivanovic 90+3′ | Cardozo 68′ (pen)
Goals and Assists
- Fernando Torres’ goal was a right-footed close-range shot (about 10 yards) on the hour mark, assisted by a Juan Mata pass; this goal was Fernando’s sixth and last in this season’s tournament
- Oscar Cardozo’s goal was a penalty scored in the 68th minute, awarded for Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta’s handling of the ball inside the area; this goal was Oscar’s seventh and last in this season’s tournament
- Branislav Ivanovic’s goal was a header into the top-left corner from about 22 yards out in the last seconds of the game, assisted by a Juan Mata corner; this trophy-winning goal was Branislav’s only goal in this season’s tournament
Man of the Match
Having won the match for his side with a brilliant header in the last minute, Branislav Ivanovic was, clearly and deservedly, man of the match.
Chelsea, having defeated SL Benfica in this final, were crowned Europa League Champions 2013, making it two European trophies in two years for the West-London power-house. It might have not worked out the way they had wanted to, but Benfica certainly had something to be proud about as they received their medals at the end of what had been a brilliant UEFA Europa League season for them.
Written by Ange Marline