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Chelsea tops Benfica 2-1 in Europa final

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AMSTERDAM (AP) - 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.

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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.

Suspended for last year's Champions League final for yellow-card accumulation, Ivanonic rose between Jardel and Andre Almeida and from 8 yards headed the ball over goalkeeper Artur, who failed to move. 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,

``It's been an amazing time for all of us involved,'' said Frank Lampard who wore the Chelsea captain's armband in John Terry's absence. ``Talk about ups and downs in the last two years! But this is a big up.''

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 for a second stint as Chelsea manager.

``That was a great performance in the second half, against a very good team,'' Benitez said. ``I'm really pleased for the players and everyone involved.''

Playing its 68th match of the season, Chelsea won despite missing 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.

``It's a great feeling. This team deserved this, because we have had a very difficult season and a lot of games,'' Ivanovic said. ``In the end, today was a very hard game and Benfica played very well. ... We deserve that trophy.''

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.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
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