After a 2-1 victory over Benfica this evening, Chelsea have become the first Barclays Premier League team to win the UEFA Europa League.
Branislav Ivanovic scored in the 93rd minute to secure the 2-1 victory against the Portuguese side in the Amsterdam Arena.
Spanish striker Fernando Torres had previously given the London team the lead, before Oscar Cardozo equalised from a penalty.
It was a night when Chelsea rode their luck for periods against their Portuguese opponents but the sheer grit and resilience shown in grinding out this win in their 68th game of the season is a tribute to their reserves of character.
The win represents a triumph for interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez, who has faced concerted hostility from the club’s fans since his appointment in November. It also secures a second successive European trophy for the Blues, having won the Champions League last season.
Benitez will leave Stamford Bridge following Sunday’s final Premier League game against Everton an in-demand manager after guiding the west Londoners into next season’s Champions League and securing this victory in tonight’s final. Over the next few days or so, there will be numerous rumours linking the Spaniard with a number of clubs. Already this evening I’ve seen speculation of a move to Manchester City and Real Madrid, whilst the Everton vacancy provides an alternative option.
This victory also means Fernando Torres is a reigning World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Europa League winner. Something that many fans will fail to recognize. It’s fair to say this is a remarkable achievement, especially considering all the criticism the striker has received over the past few seasons.
Chelsea’s supporters will savour this success for some time, once again the club have performed when it counts in Europe. I’m sure Benitez’s future will become clear soon enough, and soon we will learn who Roman Abramovich has lined up as next manager at Stamford Bridge? Will it be Mourinho? For the sake of the Premier League, I certainly hope so.