Benitez proud of Chelsea after Europa League victory

Interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has revealed he is proud of the players that won the Europa League trophy on Wednesday evening, when Branislav Ivanovic’s late header gave the Premier League side a 2-1 win over Benfica, the Daily Mirror has reported.

Fernando Torres had put Chelsea in front in the second-half but the lead did not last long, with Oscar Cardozo converting a penalty to level the scores following a Cesar Azpilicueta handball. The game looked to be heading for extra-time until Ramires won a corner late on and, in the third minute of injury time, Ivanovic met the set-piece with a looping header than nestled in the back of the net.

Benitez said: “That was a great performance in the second-half, against a very good team. I’m really pleased for the players and everyone involved. We didn’t have the legs in the first half, so we had to adapt.

The players have worked so hard, all season. I am proud – it was not easy. I’m really pleased, really proud,” the out-going manager continued.

Ivanovic added: “It’s a great feeling. This team deserved this, because we have had a very difficult season and a lot of games. In the end, today was a very hard game and Benfica played very well. But we scored from set pieces and work very hard preparing that part of our game. We deserve that trophy.

Benitez has previously confirmed he will leave the club at the end of the season after being appointed to a temporary role following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012. The Spaniard departs having also delivered Champions League football to Stamford Bridge next season, sealed in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa in which Frank Lampard’s brace established him as the all-time Chelsea top-scorer.

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