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Benfica 1-2 Chelsea – Trophy after Trophy after Trophy

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A Little Preamble

Around this time last year I started my Champions League final report with this well known phrase from Sir Alex Ferguson.

Football eh? Bloody hell!

So now I will paraphrase this to give it even more meaning to the majority who may see fit to read this.

Chelsea eh? Bloody hell!

Into the night I wander like a nicotine-stained, alcohol-tainted pissed old hack baffled by new technology, trying to put together a piece of prose about yet another glorious European night in Chelsea’s rather eccentric history. I’m out with work colleagues tomorrow night where I will celebrate large and long properly, but this will be a late night stopped over keyboard, lit by a solitary bulb. All for you ungrateful, unfeeling bastards.

It’s a nice thought that after the comparative barren years of the Bates reign, we suddenly find ourselves having to tag more Post-it notes together in order to add new glittering football bling to the growing list of club honours. 11 trophies, 10 years, nine managers.

And very kindly, Nick, the blog’s Dear Leader asked me to sum up the night’s events as its European correspondent. I do sometimes wonder if in many centuries’ time, the interweb pages with my cumbersome prose will still exist, whether my scruffily scrawled match notes on Bamboo Paper for iPad will be discovered by future eight-foot tall evolved humans with brains the size of medicine balls, where even the fattest can run 100m in five seconds, and will they gaze longingly at them like one might view the lyric scribblings of Lennon or Waters (Roger not Muddy). Will they see the raw emotion, the occasional potty-mouthed outburst, the irrationality, the fickleness and the pain and ecstasy as some timeless record of a previous but quaint time when people actually cared for something other than the greater good of human kind?

Nah, they’ll be laughing like dope smoking Cadbury’s Smash robots.

So, how do I feel pre-match? The first final I’ve not watched with my brother since 1997 and we’ve won every one of them we’ve watched together. We didn’t watch the Arsenal final together, nor the Moscow debacle, nor the final against the loathsome Spuds that must never be mentioned. Tonight due to differing work patterns we were separated again.

Was this an omen? Bollocks was it… not even I have that much of a God complex. I was nervous, but in comparison to the 19th of May last year and Munich this was small potatoes nervousness. To be honest I am recovering from a nasty bug caused by a second-hand leftover Chinese meal I ate on Sunday. Greed is never good… but the Chinese meal just smelt so good!

When the team news came it was much as predicted, maybe the omission of Moses being a surprise. I never got it right on the Podding Shed and maybe that’s good because Rafa can surprise me from time to time.

Anyway the team was Cech, Dave, Ash, Cahill, Ivan, Crazy David, Ramires, Sir Frank Lampard (captain), Mata, Oscar and Torres. Subs were Turnbull, Paolo, Mikel, Benayoun, Ake, Marin and Moses. I hoped we wouldn’t miss Hazard, but suspected we would. He will become our Messi in my view. JT we’ve done without for fairly large parts of the season so we’re used to him not being around and seem to have adapted well. Anyway, that was probably the strongest team Rafa could put out, so few complaints from me or the Twitterverse.

The Game

Well, the first half is easy to cover. We were utterly shocking. Pub teams were laughing and trying to book us for pre-season results fodder. Couldn’t pass, couldn’t hold the ball. Couldn’t keep the ball. Couldn’t win the ball. Couldn’t shoot, bar one decent effort from Frank. At 10 minutes I was alone with Didier and Frankie (new family kittens… what about those names huh?) shouting ‘WAKE UP!’ at the TV screen. This was much the pattern of behavior I adopted for the rest of the half. I did make one observation though and that was the stunning point that the tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis has been resurrected and reanimated and now calls himself Jorge Jesus and is manager of Benfica. Seriously check out the photos… it’s Vitas I tell you. Like Elvis he faked his death but rather than copy Elvis and run a chip shop in Scunthorpe (I have it on good authority) he’s decided to move back into the public eye. Yes folks, we were so poor I was hunting for a lookalike to tweet about. My notes go something like this…

20 minutes – All over the shop.
25 – Same shop, same trolley, different aisle.
28 – First shot on goal from Oscar.
30 – Rafa re-trying his patented Istanbul 2005 stratagem.
35 – Can we try Lidl.
37 – Decent effort from Frank… who else. After the Villa game I find myself mentioning Frank’s name in much the same reverend way Basil Fawlty addressed the fake Lord Melbury.
40 – Cardozo, we can’t handle him.
43 – Aah now I see we’ve moved to Aldi.
45 – 0-0 but how the hell we’ve seen that out I have no idea.

SHOCKING stuff from Chelsea across the pitch. But Benfica had seemingly decided to wear ballet shoes instead of boots which answers why they couldn’t shoot properly, nor stay on their feet. UEFA and referee conspiracy theories briefly flashed through my mind but logic won in the end. Even UEFA aren’t that stupid to publicly demonstrate their hatred of us. Although the sight of renowned Chelsea haters Platini and Cruyff sat side by side seemed a dark portent of possibility.

So like the eternal optimist, or the drug-crazed lunatic after a fresh fix I play with Didier and Frankie for 15 minutes and then think to myself, we’re a bad half/good half team so we have the good half coming up. It can’t be worse… surely?

Here’s the the second half notes. Note the subtle chord change from Gilmour-like melancholy doom to Jimmy Page Whole Lotta Love solo.

47 minutes – Aah I see they’ve opened Costcutters, shall we try that shop then?
48 – Benfica diving? (Shurely shome mishtake?)
49 – I say young shop worker, can you tell us where the ball is?
50 – Arse, Benfica goal… oh hang on… offside? Yeah I thought it might be…
50 – Will that close shave wake us up?
55 – Zzz… yawn… FFS WAKE UP CHELSEA!
59 – GOAL! GOLA! GOALLISSIMO! GOAL MACHINE! Torres scores on break, great vision, control and finish from him. He’s not quite done then! 1-0 Chelsea, never in any doubt…
60 – International feed missed it with slow mo replay of Vitas or fans yawning or something, well they caught the last seconds but even I can’t point the blame at ITV. But I do anyway.
60 – No doubt we have 30 minutes plus of grim hanging on then…
65 – Just keep the fuckers at bay Chelsea.
67 – Ref hears Ray Winstone in his earpiece shout ‘BET IN PLAY… NOW!’
68 – PENALTY. And for the first time in this competition we concede a proper penalty that even we can’t complain about from a rather silly Azpilicueta handball.
69 – Goal. Cardozo smashes ball past Cech. 1-1.
69 – Bollocks.
71 – Hold on we’re actually still in this. We’re threatening them. We’re alive!
73 – Fitness factor will surely tell.
74 – Torres tugged to floor, looks a penalty. Ref hears ‘BET IN PLAY… NOW!’ and refuses to give it.
80 – Ramires offside for the 37th time – he ain’t no winger…
88 – Blimey, a good open game now – Frank shoots… GOOAAA… oh it hits the bar. Wow, that would have been the way to win. Shit… didn’t he hit the bar in Moscow?
89 – Temerity to suggest on Twitter that maybe Ramires should come off for Moses – three minutes indicated of added time…
91 – Ramires cleverly picks up ball deep on right wing and plays it against defender for a corner. Last chance surely…
92 – GOAL! GOLA! GOALISSIMO! GOAL, BABY! BACK OF THE NET! Ivanovic in fairy tale last minute goal wins it for Chelsea surely.

And even then we needed a bit of wonder defending from Gary Cahill, no doubt questioning why he left Bolton for all this glory, in order to ensure we didn’t chuck it away with seconds to go. How must Wenger feel to have let Cahill skip by?

And that my friends, my colleagues, my brethren is how we won the game according to my electronic scribbles on the modern day version of the spiral-bound notepad and fountain pen.

Rubbish, still rubbish, getting better, improving, persevering, refusing to lie down, eyes on the prize, winning mentality. Spirit. That’s Chelsea Football Club for you.

Epilogue

As I did last year post-Munich I refuse to cheapen or sully this achievement with any ratings. Every man jack played their part in this.

The unity in this side is amazing sometimes to the point that we lose as a team, we win as a team, we play rubbish together as a team and we play good as a team. It’s a kind of football communism in a sense.

So, with no ratings let’s cover some honourable mentions, first half excluded where everyone was communally rubbish.

  • Ramires, as Peter Watts described him to me… our Duracell Bunny. Runs and runs endlessly. I bet he runs in his sleep. Not a great night on the ball but he contributes and he tries and that’s more than good enough for me.
  • David Luiz – calm and cool, an undercurrent of fury from time to time. Did more than you might think and in that sense was yes… Ballack-esque at times with his breaking up of play.
  • Torres – cruelly nicknamed El Cobarde (The Coward) by me this season but effective in the second half tonight and a very cool finish. Life in this dog yet maybe…
  • Cahill – future England captain. Never ever gives in.
  • Ivanovic – a few odd mistakes, but the goal was a beauty and a fairy tale finish for a man who missed last year’s Champions League final.
  • Cole – tireless, just tireless.
  • Lord Francis of Lampardshire – there will be articles to follow on the great man and his contribution I suspect from all of the Podding Shed crew, but tonight he worked as he does best. When we needed a wake up call his shots reminded the others of what we were there to do. And for him to be captain again on a European winning night means he has won every major club honour there is. And it looks good for a contract extension as well. ROMAN, SIGN HIM UP!

Finally a special mention here for a much derided and divisive man. And this is because deep down, hate him, loathe him, or even like him, we Chelsea fans are decent, civil people who know what history means, and what class and dignity is.

Rafael Benitez. Asked to do a job, he gets us Champions League football. He gets us a European trophy to become one of four teams to win all major European honours, along with Ajax, Bayern Munich and Juventus and the ONLY English team to do so. Read and weep fans of other English clubs, read and weep. So he came in hated by many but still worked hard for the club. Despite the abuse he always smiled (well nearly always) and always faced the press and fans with good humour and a much needed ability to cop a deaf ‘un at Stamford Bridge and everywhere else. Mr Benitez, I thank you and wish you well as long as it’s elsewhere.

I could write so much more, but it’s 00:45 now. I’m tired and emotional, but not alcohol-induced tired and emotional. My Chelsea, Chelsea Football Club, the most bipolar and stark raving batshit insane club in the world, a club who I’ve berated, screamed at, sworn at, blushed at, cried at, laughed at and with, I bloody love you.

Truly, madly, deeply.

As ever it’s been emotional.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!

Press Reports

The Guardian, Daniel Taylor: “The clocks at either end of the stadium had just ticked past 92 minutes when Branislav Ivanovic made the run that will immortalise him in Chelsea’s history. The header was weighted with perfection, angled across goal and looping into the net, and it was then that Chelsea knew they had another European trophy to take back to Stamford Bridge and Rafael Benítez’s brief and turbulent period in charge was guaranteed its happy ending.”

The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Chelsea just love Europe. Whatever form it comes in, Champions League or Europa League, probably Eurovision too, they just relish its glittering company. Their salaries should be paid in Euros. They just never give up. Just as extra-time loomed, Branislav Ivanovic launched himself at a Juan Mata corner with such conviction, reviving memories of Didier Drogba at his unstoppable best, and Chelsea suddenly, gloriously, capped a crazy, complicated season with silverware. This was Chelsea’s 68th game, eighth competition and 12th country of the season.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “How Rafa Benitez’s team came to be the holders of the Europa League, as well as the European Cup, which is still theirs until 25 May, is one hell of story. It ended in the 93rd minute of the game when Branislav Ivanovic, hanging in the cool Amsterdam evening air that little bit longer than any of the Benfica defence, headed in a remarkable winner.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A third European final in a row for Chelsea looked to be heading for extra-time after a Benfica penalty had levelled up Fernando Torres’s second-half goal, but with stoppage time underway, Branislav Ivanovic’s superb header won the Europa League.”

Goals

59′ Torres 0-1
68′ Cardozo (pen) 1-1
90+2′ Ivanovic 1-2
101 Great Goals match page

Links

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  • http://www.facebook.com/GUZE22 Olawale G Gee

    never for once had any doubt , nice one boyz

  • Simon

    What would life be, without Chelsea, what are we…
    So I say, thank you for the football, for giving it to me…

  • Blue_MikeL

    The credit is where credit is due. I hope on the last game of the season we say “Thank you Rafa”, but he still must leave.

  • http://www.chelseafcblog.com Der_Kaiser

    Ooh, me head.

    Lovely. Said it many times before, but if this football club didn’t exist then you’d have to invent it. Do we ever do anything other than high drama in games like that?

    Pleased for all the boys, but especially Ivan after missing out in Munich. Nothing quite like a good last gasp towering header to win a pot, is there?

    Cap doffed to Benitez – it was never going to be a love affair, but he departs with thanks.

    And so to Sunday – I suspect drink may be taken again…

  • http://www.chelseafcblog.com Der_Kaiser

    Great picture for the article, Nick – well chosen. And well written, TG…

  • http://greatwenlondon.wordpress.com/ PeteW

    Nice stuff TG. Another cracking evening, even if we did play like dogshit for 60 minutes.
    Was getting very narked by the stick dished out to Ramires by some of our fans on twitter (the sort who seem to worship Ibrahimovic). Yes, his technique is so-so but he’s not a winger, has played endless games and his energy and workrate is worth a shedload to the team. He is always running, always providing an outlet – that’s of immense value to a team that doesn’t actually hold the ball all that well and is constantly looking for short, lethal counterattacks.

    But this was one of those games that is hard to analyse. We were so poor first half we should have been two down. It’s hard to give too much credit to the team/manager when they are outplayed so badly. But the spirit was incredible as usual, the self-belief that we all worried had left with Drogba is still there, and we fluked it again, albeit with a monumental header. Mata, who was very poor, once more gets the key assist – he is a special player, even when he plays badly he contributes (a bit like Ramires and Lampard).

    As for Rafa, well he did as much as I expected really. We were in three competitions that we had a good chance of winning (World Club Champ, League Cup, Europa) and he got one of them, and it’s the one I most wanted to win. He’s got us into the top four, although I think with the players at his disposal we should not have made such a tough fight of it, we are comfortably the third best team in the country and should be closer to City and United.

    We generally played pretty dreadful football though and rarely – no more than half-a-dozen games – looked as if we were in control of matches. I expected him to be better than that.

    His rotation was good, he had to take a few risks but we picked up very few injuries and that’s to his credit. He also, unexpectedly, proved to be much better at managing egos than I expected.

    I still haven’t really warmed to him as a man, he very much acted throughout as a hired hand who had little interest in embracing the club or its culture, and I think that’s why he remains unpopular. He’s bought into the Scouse mythology, he’s never going to be one of us. It’s hard to trust somebody who identifies with an opposition club so strongly, especially given that they think they are morally superior to us,.

    And let’s remember this: Benitez won a lesser trophy with a stronger squad against weaker opposition than RDM last season. A little perspective may be called for. He’s done okay, he held the course but he didn’t break new ground. He’s not a Mourinho and never will be.

  • mark_25

    Nice job Tony.

    It was a stressful night and they looked likely to score on several occasions.

    It was a night of miracles. Torres scored a great goal and we won! And we keep creating entries in the record book, like simultaneously owning the Champions League and Europa trophies.

  • Blueboydave

    Rather than the effects of a dodgy take-away, I watched proceedings through the streaming haze of a bout of man flu that descended on me a few days ago.

    Which no doubt contributed to my slightly jaded feelings, especially during our first half non-performance. However, even when things picked up, I couldn’t help think it all reminded me of winning the League Cup in 1998 a year after the FA Cup, another game won by a header from a defender who’d had his share of problems previously, incidentally – OK, but a pale shadow of the delight of the previous year.

    Still, I could never tire of seeing Platini struggling to keep a grimace off his face as he hands out winners medals to his least favourite team – and at least the “European family” didn’t seem to stretch to a smirking George Osbourne this time, [nor Roman as far as I could see].

    I can live with Mad Rafa now taking even longer to recite his list of career trophy wins, which you can be sure he will do frequently, as long as he does bugger off somewhere else after Sunday.

    Similarly to PW above, I’m not convinced he added much to our season that was worth all the bad feeling and divisions his appointment caused.

    Even more so, however, serious questions need to be asked of our suits that with just a couple of injuries we were left with a subs bench that offered no real options to improve or alter the starting eleven.

  • mark_25

    Lampard’s signed his new contract http://www.chelseafc.com/news-article/article/3180951/title/lampard-signs

    All good news for a party atmosphere Sunday. Surely we can all have the good grace not to boo Rafa as he sneaks off early via the kitchen?

    • http://greatwenlondon.wordpress.com/ PeteW

      I imagine Rafa will get a polite send-off. Would be churlish to think otherwise. There may be a few choruses of ‘Jose Mourinho’ mind.

  • CFCfanInCLT

    Super Frank signs …. his reference to years makes me wonder whether he was informed who our ‘new’ manager is going to be. http://tinyurl.com/a6mq2l8

  • limetreebower

    Thanks very much for posting, Tony. A heroic effort much appreciated by all of us who are strangely keen to relive the match.

    I’m not sure I can add anything to what Pete says: spot on, in every respect.

    I’m just a little cheesed off at the general tenor of the media response, which seems to be all about how maybe those dreadful irrational ungrateful Cheslea fans will now surely have to give Rafa credit for what he’s achieved.

    As Rafa himself pointed out — very wisely and sensibly, I thought — it’s ridiculous to judge his achievements on the basis of one result. If we’d lost that match, would all the media coverage have been “Rafa Reign Ends in Failure”? I suspect it would have been. But because we happened to nick a win after having been pretty poor for large parts of the second half and almost indescribably terrible for the whole of the first, suddenly it’s all about what a good job the manager’s done.

    As Pete says, let’s have some perspective. When a team comes out to play the final of a (fairly) major cup competition and performs as hideously, embarrassingly, pathetically badly as we did for 45 minutes last night, shouldn’t one be asking one or two teeny questions about whether they’re properly prepared and motivated, maybe?

    Still. We’ve achieved the two things we needed to achieve after we went out of the CL, the mood on Sunday will be good, and I’m sure Rafa will get a relatively warm send-off, and good luck to him. He’s handled a situation he should never have been put in with rather more tact and grace than I expected, and he’s done ok with the team.

    The down side of course is that last night’s events are more fuel for Abramovich’s conviction that his way of doing things (if one can dignify it by describing it as a method) actually works.

    Still. If the younger players can prove themselves as adept at ignoring the managerial nonsense as the Frank-JT-Big Pete generation has, perhaps we’ll be all right even after José goes supernova and creates a space-time singularity in the Stamford Bridge home dugout.

    Gamewise, I’m not sure what there is to say except to congratulate Branners (whom I love very deeply indeed — I think he may even be reaching Riccy-Carvalho-type levels of loveworthiness) and Cahill and Big Pete for managing to stay sufficiently competent in the sea of filth that was out first half performance, and to note the bizarre value of Ramires, a player you never take off no matter how hideously he’s playing because he always, always ends up having more energy left in the last ten minutes than the poor sod who’s trying to defend against him.

  • Gleb

    I’ll repeat myself from some previous post in saying how much we should really appreciate this victory based on how much the other team wanted it. I live in Lisbon and was able to witness the whole hysteria firsthand. It was a huge deal for Benfica. I know the English clubs don’t really rate the Europa League highly and there might be a grain of justice in that, but after seeing how devastated the red side of Portugal was, I can’t but feel that bit happier. Obviously not in a bad way, Benfica are a great club with a marvelous fanbase, but it’s nice sometimes to have a bit of perspective in these things: we’ve become so used to this tired notion of the Europa League being second-rate, and here’s a club that, arguably, has a pedigree in football that’s in no way inferior to Chelsea’s, Liverpool’s or Man United’s, and they wanted it so much. For Chelsea, still, it seemed like another day in the office. Ok, we’re happy, but tomorrow we won’t really remember, and that’s fine, that shows we have better things to do, but this kind of thinking might lead to a lack of caring afterwards. It’s like having a wife for many years and forgetting why you fell in love with her, how hard it was, how happy you were. You’re just coming home every day, see her, have supper and stuff, and not really appreciate her. Meanwhile there’s always some guy who dreams of even talking to her, while you see her everyday and not give a damn. We should cherish this victory and any other that we have had or will have. And should all the other clubs. Don’t let the media get to you, Chelsea – Benfica is an honorable headline. It’s not like it was Valletta F.C. vs. FC Nordsjælland or something. So this one’s definitely for the history books. And I’m glad my… not prophecy, but wish from one of my blogs (one of my two blogs…) came true.

    So yeah, congratulations everyone!!!

  • idm

    Btw, this is fun. Some West Ham fan was really angry about Chelsea playing in European final – http://m.talksport.co.uk/radio/drivetime/130515/amazing-west-ham-caller-why-he-doesnt-want-chelsea-win-europa-league-197658

  • http://primaryaccount.blogspot.com/ WorkingClassPost

    Nearly there.

    This has been a long and arduous season with just one game left to go (if we do the business and don’t have to play off against Arse or join in CL quals).

    The commentators said that Benfica were complaining about fatigue before the game, yet we’ve played 13 more matches than them – that’s the equivalent of a full three months longer season, and to me it showed on the pitch.

    They didn’t look in any way better than us, but were significantly quicker and sharper in the first half, and although we were off the pace, we were very quick to them when it mattered which forced them to snatch at their shots. As the second half progressed, their freshness diminished and we played ourselves back into the match, just like any top team does.

    Everton’s a tough finale, but a win sorts things out, and it’s only 90 minutes after all, no extra time or pens to consider.

    Well done to everyone, and I’m sure that Rafa will get a bit of respect at the finish.