As Super Eagles star, John Mikel Obi, looks to make a decision on his club future soon, the midfielder, who has been named in Gernot Rohr’s provisional Nigeria squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), was celebrating with former club, Chelsea, as the Blues claimed the Europa League title in dramatic fashion on this day in 2013.
Mikel and compatriot, Victor Moses, were on the bench for the match against Benfica at the Amsterdam Arena in the Netherlands as then manager, Rafael Benitez, aimed to end a turbulent spell as Blues boss on a high while Benfica were looking to avoid losing for a seventh successive time in a European Cup final.
A close encounter ended goalless after the first half but Fernando Torres scored against the run of play to put Chelsea ahead on the hour only for Oscar Cardozo’s penalty to deservedly drew Benfica level just 10 minutes later.
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech saved superbly from Cardozo soon after while Frank Lampard struck the woodwork in a dramatic conclusion before Branislav Ivanovic rose to meet Juan Mata’s 93rd minute corner kick to win the title for Chelsea and prompt a subdued clenched-fist celebration from Benitez.
The Europa League title win came a year after the club claimed the Champions League title – a match Ivanovic missed due to suspension – and was the 11th piece of silverware won by the London club in 10 years of Roman Abramovich becoming Chelsea’s owner.
Across London at Highbury, Arsenal claimed a 2-1 win over Leicester City thanks to goals from Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira to become the first team in the Premier League era and, indeed, in more than a century in English football to end the league season unbeaten on this day in 2004.
It was the perfect end to an unforgettable season for the Gunners led by Arsene Wenger, as the North London side which included Super Eagles legend, Nwankwo Kanu, won a third league title under the French manager with a record of 26 wins a dozen draws and not a single loss.
And despite the best efforts of a number of other teams, Arsenal’s Invincibles remain the only team to have achieved the feat in the English top flight ever since, with the likes of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool the only teams to run them close, losing just one match all season in 2005 and 2019 – only one of those teams won the league title, though.
As a result, Arsenal remain the only side in the Premier League era to have been presented with a golden trophy, with Nigerian forward Nwankwo Kanu making 10 appearances that season and scoring one goal.
Also on this day in football
Real Madrid claimed the Champions League title in 2002 thanks to a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, with the highlight of the match being arguably the greatest goal in the competitions history scored by Zinedine Zidane to win the game for Los Blancos.
Raul Gonzalez had put Real Madrid ahead in the first half after slipping a first-time shot past Leverkusen Hans-Jorg Butt in the eighth minute. But Lucio headed the Bundesliga side level in the 13th minute before Zinedine Zidane unleashed a left foot volley on the stroke of half time.
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