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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rafa Benitez Delivers as History-Making Chelsea FC Win Europa League

RIDICULED, abused, booed and generally mistreated by the club’s fans, Rafa Benitez will be a man on high demand when he leaves Chelsea after leading the London club to the Europa League title on Wednesday night at the Amsterdam Arena.

The Spaniard who has been called names by the Blues’ supporters ever since he took over from fans’ favorite Roberto Di Mateo on interim terms did his reputation a world of good after he saw the Roman Abramovich-owned club overcome sustained pressure to win their second European silverware in as many seasons.

The Stamford Bridge club were undoubtedly second best on the night but a Branislav Ivanovic header in injury time handed them a 2-1 win over a Benfica side that were wasteful on the final third and perhaps too complacent. The Portuguese giants controlled the early minutes of the game and could have gone ahead had Oscar Cardozo, Rodrigo Moreno or the much-sought after Nicolas Gaitan been more composed and clinical with their finishing.

Kenyan sports journalists and a few fans followed the action at K1 Klubhouse in Parklands courtesy of Europa League sponsors Western Union and they followed the proceedings patiently as they wined and dined a scoreless first half.

The game came into life on the hour mark when Fernando Torres completed a counter-attack and rounded the goalkeeper to give Chelsea the lead against the run of play. Cardozo however leveled from the spot just 8 minutes later after Cesar Azpilicueta blocked Lima’s ball with his hands.

Both goalkeepers were tested before Ivanovic’s winner, Petr Cech tipping Cardozo’s ferocious drive over the bar while Frank Lampard rattled the crossbar from even a further distance. Serbian player of the year, Ivanovic, however, had the last say after he leaped high and directed his header to the roof of the head, leaving Artur rooted to the spot.

And with that, Chelsea became the first British club to have won every UEFA competition, and the first club ever to hold both the Champions League and Europa League titles at the same time.

While all the club’s fans were ecstatic after the win, the much-criticized Benitez (who even had to see a “We want Mourinho” banner on the stands) was the biggest winner on the night as he added yet another European crown to his CV. This was his 10th trophy as a manager and has won a trophy in each of his last four clubs. He won two La Liga titles with Valencia and a UEFA Cup before moving to Liverpool where he added 4 titles to the Anfield trophy cabinet; 2005-06 FA Cup, 2006 Community Shield, 2004-05 Champions League and the 2005 UEFA Super Cup.

He also bagged two trophies when he replaced Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan; the 2010 Supercoppa Italiana and the Club Worldcup the same year.

As a neutral observer, methinks Chelsea could have done a lot worse than to ensure there’s continuity with the Benitez era but we all know there’s not a chance that that would happen. Jose Mourinho is the proverbial beloved prodigal Stamford Bridge son that the club’s fans want and it looks like they will get the self-proclaimed “Special One.”

One thing that is for sure though is that Benitez won’t be out of the dugout for long as top European clubs will come knocking on his doors. If there isn’t much on the speculations that Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini will take over the reigns at Manchester City, the Eastlands club might consider having the Spaniard as an option. A more controversial move could see Rafa move to managerless Everton but the 53-year-old’s close connection with Merseyside rivals Liverpool could see him express some restraint.

Wherever he lands, Chelsea fans will hope the man most of them call "Spanish Waiter" doesn’t gather as much success as the man who will replace him at the London club come end of the season.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!