Ivanovic header gives Chelsea the crownBy MIKE CORDER
The Associated Press | May 16,2013AP PHOTO
Chelsea players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Europa League final soccer match between Benfica and Chelsea at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Wednesday night.AMSTERDAM — Branislav Ivanovic scored on a looping header from Juan Mata’s corner kick in the third minute of stoppage time, and Chelsea beat Benfica 2-1 Wednesday night to win the Europa League following its Champions League title last year.
Fernando Torres put Chelsea ahead in the 60th minute, but Oscar Cardozo tied the score when he converted a penalty kick eight minutes later after a hand ball by Cesar Azpilcueta.
Chelsea earned the stoppage-time corner kick when Ramires knocked the ball off Jardel and over the end line.
Ivanovic, suspended for last year’s Champions League final for yellow-card accumulation, rose between Jardel and Andre Almeida and from 8 yards headed the ball over goalkeeper Artur, who froze. The goal came at 2:13 of three minutes of stoppage time, and Ivanovic slid to the nearest corner flag, punched it and was mobbed by teammates,
Manager Rafa Benitez, criticized intensely by Chelsea fans since he replaced Roberto Di Matteo in November, led the Blues to the only major title they had not won. Benitez already has said he will leave at the end of the season, and Jose Mourinho appears likely to replace him in his second stint as Chelsea manager.
Playing its 68th match of the season, Chelsea won despite missing captain John Terry and midfielder Eden Hazard, both injured in Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League victory over Aston Villa. Terry was suspended for last year’s Champions League final, won on penalty kicks over Bayern Munich.
Before a crowd of 46,163 at Amsterdam Arena, Benfica lost its sixth straight European final since winning the Champions Clubs’ Cup in 1962, when promising 20-year-old striker Eusebio scored twice to beat Real Madrid 5-3 in Amsterdam. Eusebio was among the spectators for this final.
Torres, who has nine European goals this season but just seven in the Premier League, scored when he collected the ball just inside Benfica’s half, used his strength to turn and wrestle past Ezequiel Garay and then beat captain Luisao before rounding Artur and slotting from a tight angle.
Torres sprinted to the corner and struck a Usain Bolt-style pose in front of the Chelsea fans.
It was the second straight crushing late loss for Benfica. On Saturday, Porto’s Kelvin scored in stoppage time for a 2-1 win that moved Porto past Benfica into the Portuguese league lead with one game left.
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