Ashley Cole has told the official Chelsea website of his pride at becoming a double European champion.
It looked as though the game was heading to extra time after Oscar Cardozo’s penalty cancelled out Fernando Torres’s opener, but Branislav Ivanovic popped up at the end of injury time to head home the winner, leaving Cole understandably delighted.
Not many people would have predicted that outcome after an underwhelming first half left Rafael Benitez with some strong words for the side.
‘It was disappointing the way we played in the first half but when you get to big games and there’s a medal and a trophy involved, it is win at all costs,’ said the 32-year-old. ‘We got away with a few chances but the main thing is we won the game.
‘Benfica definitely had the better of the first half and at half-time we had to have a look at ourselves. The manager laid it down and said we had to be better than we were in the first half, or we wouldn’t get anything out of it.
‘We were lucky to go in at 0-0 and it could only get better for us. He said we had to produce what we know we can, and we went out and showed a lot of determination and spirit and managed another last-minute goal.
‘Fernando had a rough time of it out there, they were pulling him and kicking him, but he never gave up and was a willing runner in behind, so he really deserved a goal.
‘Branislav of course missed out in Munich too, and we missed him there, as we did JT, Raul Meireles and Ramires. Branislav came back in and had a great game, so it was great for him to score the winner.’
It adds silverware to what has been a marathon season. Last night’s was our 68th game of a campaign that has taken in eight different competitions.
‘It was amazing to win the Champions League last season and come back strong and win something again this year,’ Cole said. ‘It isn’t the Champions League but to win something in Europe is a brilliant achievement and we’re very proud of that achievement.
‘It’s been a tough season. It’s been disappointing at time but we’re definitely in the top four, maybe the top three and we have a European trophy. There are a lot of Premier League sides that would love to do that, and for us to do it is brilliant.’