AMSTERDAM: Rafa Benitez invested enormous effort in resisting the temptation to gloat after Chelsea’s Europa League triumph vindicated his management work as interim manager writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Offered opportunities at the post-match press conference to play up his own role, the Spaniard contented himself with saying: “It’s a special night for everyone involved when you play a European final so when you win you have to be pleased and proud.”
Benitez, rushed in against Chelsea fans’ wishes, acknowledged Benfica’s attitude, skill and high-line defending style had made life difficult for his players.
The goals were both pre-planned. Benitez said Chelsea had always intended to put their quickest forwards in behind the Benfica defence and Fernando Torres had thus opened the scoring.
The winning goal, insisted Benitez, was the result of meticulous set-piece planning about how to capitalise on corners.
His greatest appreciation was reserved for his old Liverpool protege Torres who has achieved the unique feat of having won World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Europa League
Benitez said: “We have had a lot of players improving during the season and Fernando was one. People say I was brought in specifically to help him but he was working hard already with the fitness coaches and staff and today he made the difference again so I’m happy because he scored and we won.”
In the end even Benitez, however, had to let his guard drop a little.
He said: “What sort of success this is depends on your perception. We won the Europa League with one striker (Torres) for every single game; we managed players with yellow cards; and we did the same in the league.
“If you look everything you can realise how difficult it is because also of injuries so we had just 18 players . . . Hopefully some people now will say: Yes, it’s not bad.”