Europa League Final: Fernando Torres hailed as 'the difference' against Benfica by Rafael Benitez

Benitez claims the striker has improved since his arrival

Rafael Benitez hailed the impact of Fernando Torres after Chelsea had claimed the Europa League crown with a 2-1 win over Benfica last night.

Torres has been ridiculed in some quarters since his £50million move from Liverpool in January 2011.

It was no laughing matter for Benfica at the Amsterdam ArenA, though, as Torres opened the scoring with his 20th goal of the season before Branislav Ivanovic's stoppage-time header gave Chelsea the unique experience of holding both European trophies at the same time.

"We have had a lot of players improving during the season," he said.

"Fernando was one of these players.

"A lot of people said I was appointed to bring the best from Fernando. He has improved a lot so I am really pleased.

"He has working hard with the fitness coaches and medical staff and (last night) he was the difference again."

The triumph must have been particularly sweet for the 53-year-old, given his many critics within the Chelsea support.

Booed upon his arrival last November, Benitez kept his dignity throughout the ordeal he has been through.

Now he has added silverware to the top-four Barclays Premier League finish that has already been assure.

"If you have to win for people to realise the job we are doing? Well, we won. Hopefully now people will say it is not bad," he said.

"It depends on the perception.

"But if you analyse everything, we won the Europa League with one striker for every single game.

"We managed players with yellow cards. (Last night) we only had 18 players.

"If you put everything together you will realise how hard it is. I think we did well."

Benitez also had words of praise for Frank Lampard.

The 34-year-old midfielder is reportedly on the brink of signing a long-awaited contract extension with Chelsea and came close to scoring on two occasions, including a second-half effort that rattled the crossbar.

"Frank is a great professional," the Spaniard said.

"He has worked hard in every training session and now, at the end, I think we could see he has improved.

"Some people were surprised when I said that but he has scored a lot of goals in this period. Maybe it was because we were managing him quite well.

"When you play two games a week, with his age and commitment, sometimes you are not fresh.

"You can see he still has a lot of football. He is fit and next year he will do well again."

Coming after an equally late defeat to Porto last weekend that looks certain to cost them their hope of winning the Portuguese league, it has been a shattering experience for Benfica and their coach Jorge Jesus.

And, apparently, it has made Jesus think about the wisdom of signing a contract extension that has already been agreed.

"I have a very close relationship with the president," he said.

"I have been talking to him over the last few weeks about renewing my contract.

"We have agreed most of the details but football changes every day.

"This defeat will lead me to have some time to think about these issues."

PA

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