Chelsea became the first side in history to hold both the Champions League and Europa League trophies at the same time after a stoppage-time winner from Branislav Ivanovic.
Fernando Torres, who becomes the first ever player to win the Europa League, Champions League, World Cup and the European Championship, gave the Blues the lead just before the hour mark, before Cardozo levelled from the spot eight minutes later.
But the drama continued to the very last and like in Munich, it was another Juan Mata corner that had a telling say, with Ivanovic leaping highest to ensure Chelsea of another major European trophy.
It means now Chelsea have another shot at UEFA Super Cup glory, having been taught a lesson by Atletico Madrid and Falcao last time, with either Dortmund or Bayern Munich awaiting the lucrative tie in Prague at the end of August.
No side has ever won UEFA’s top two club competitions in reverse order in successive campaigns, and whilst it may be seen as inferior to the Champions League, there was no hiding the delight of another major trophy to get the hands of.
And where last year was Drogba’s final, this was Torres and Ivanovic’s, who played little or no part in the showpiece event in Munich 361 days ago.
It caps off a remarkable year for Chelsea, who were in the running for SEVEN trophies going into the season (Community Shield, Super Cup, Club World Cup, Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and the Champions League), but it typifies Chelsea to do the unpredictable and win a trophy they were never in the hunt for.
Rafa Benitez can now sign off with a European trophy to his CV, as can Chelsea to its history books, but it was sheer horror for Benfica. The Portuguese side were firmly in the hunt for a treble just four days ago, but a stoppage-time defeat to Porto, and another last-gasp loss here, mean they may just end their campaign with a Portuguese Cup.
It was Benfica who, in actual fact, started the match better. Despite Chelsea having won their last five encounters with Portuguese opponents, the Blues only had 38% of the possession. Cardozo set the warning signs off just two minutes in when he had a free header, whilst Gaitan similarly had chances of his own.
Perez’s menacing run brought the game’s first card against Oscar for cynically stopping him, but it incentivised Chelsea to play better.
Mata’s shot was unconventionally punched away by Artur, whilst Lampard’s swerving long-range effort was destined for the goal, only for a fantastic, acrobatic stop by the Benfica keeper.
The pulsating action did not cease going into the second half. Chelsea were exploited down a weak right-hand side of Azpilicueta and Ramires, but neither Salvio or Cardozo could take full advantage despite some wonderful Benfica passing.
Just like Ribery had the ball in the net last year, Cardozo similarly had to in the 50th minute, but was similarly dismayed to see the offside flay, correctly, be raised.
Slowly Chelsea were getting back into the game and the first goal was a real gift.
Cech’s hopeful throw out was to the centre of the park and Mata’s vital flick-on found Torres. The Spaniard showed his strength to muscle out Luisao before showing his composure and skill to first dummy a shot, before finally pulling the trigger and giving Chelsea the advantage.
The striker has had an indifferent season in the league this campaign, but there can be no denying the man in Europe. Only Ronaldo (12) and Lewandowski (10) have scored more goals than Fernando Torres (9) in Europe this season.
The lead did not last long as Azpilicueta stopped the ball with his hand as Chelsea conceded their sixth penalty in Europe this season, two more than any other side in the Europa League or Champions League. Cardozo slammed home from the spot, as Cech could not repeat his Munich heroics.
Cardozo nearly bagged a brace when the ball dropped kindly at his feet, and his half-volley drew the best out of Cech, who tipped it over with his fingertips.
Lampard, running sideways, nearly won it for the Blues as his 30 yard strike cannoned off the crossbar; it deserved to go in.
The Blues have actually won 63% of their European ties that have not involved John Terry compared to 47% when he has played, but there can be no denying his presence in the box at corners. Fear not when there is Cahill or Ivanovic, and the latter scored in the 93rd minute, powerfully planting the ball into the far corner as Benfica were shell-shocked.
There was still work to be done as Cardozo failed to get the ball out of his feet before Cahill smoothered, but by then, we were already well past the three minutes officially added on, and a new trophy is Chelsea’s.
- Benfica 1-2 Chelsea: Last-gasp Ivanovic header gives Blues Europa League title (standard.co.uk)
- Benfica 1-2 Chelsea: Match report and pictures (thesun.co.uk)