Rafael Benítez admitted that Chelsea FC's UEFA Europa League triumph was sweeter for the knowledge they had to overcome "a great team" in SL Benfica to claim the title.
Benítez, in his penultimate game with the west London side, became only the second coach after Giovanni Trapattoni to guide two clubs to glory in this competition following his success at Valencia CF in 2004. He said he was "happy we won" but insisted that even if they had not, Chelsea would still have plenty to be proud of.
Benfica's Jorge Jesus had similar thoughts, though he also rued his luck as for the second time in five days his team lost a decisive game at the death. The Portuguese side's season is not over yet, however, with "two finals" still to play.
Rafael Benítez, Chelsea manager
It's a special night for everyone involved. When you play a final and win, you are always happy. That said, I have been doing this job for six, seven months, and it didn't really matter whether we won or not. We'd already done our job, we do it day in, day out. Benfica have too. They are a great team and that's one of the reasons why we weren't as strong as we have been tonight. Secondly, we're 69 games into our season and thirdly, we had to change our approach a little as we knew Benfica would play high up the pitch. We wanted to capitalise on that.
I'm really pleased for Fernando Torres. Some people think he was one of the reasons I was appointed and he's been working hard on his fitness and with the technical staff. I'm really happy he scored; I'm really happy we won. Benfica are a very good team. They are dangerous from set pieces, have a good manager and good players. They know what they're doing and
it makes our victory so much sweeter that we had to overcome a team that good.
Chelsea are a young team and you saw at the beginning [of the season] that it took a while to come together. They have fought and worked hard, and they've come through. My success? It depends on your perceptions. When you put it all together, what we've managed in terms of keeping the squad together and coping with injuries, I think we've done well. You have to win for people to realise what you're trying to do. We won, so hopefully everyone now knows.
Jorge Jesus, Benfica coach
I'd like to tell you how proud I am to be here. Today Benfica showed the world they would be worthy winners, showed that they have real quality. Our fans deserved victory for the passion and loyalty they showed.
For most of the 90 minutes Benfica were better – better organised, technically and tactically superior to a very good Chelsea team. Chelsea are strong on the counterattack, though, and while in the first half we stopped them using this ploy, in the second half we had less success.
We looked the side most likely to make it 1-0, then 2-1 – small details made the difference, especially in the penalty area. Again, for the second time in five days we conceded the decisive goal in injury time. Once again the players felt they didn't deserve to lose. At the end they felt they'd been gunned down. We still have two finals to play this season though: we have the Portuguese Cup final and the Liga title race isn't over yet.
I was proud when Johan Cruyff hugged me at the end and told me that Benfica were a real team, playing football in a style he likes. I learned a lot from him so it means a lot.
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