By Stefan Coerts at the Amsterdam ArenA
Petr Cech has lauded Rafa Benitez's role in Chelsea's Europa League success in the wake of their hard-fought 2-1 victory over Benfica in Wednesday's final.
Fernando Torres gifted the Londoners the lead against the run of play at the hour mark, only to see Oscar Cardozo restore parity from the spot shortly after.
However, Branislav Ivanovic's stoppage-time header gave Chelsea the victory and Cech was quick to stress Benitez's good work at Stamford Bridge since his arrival in November 2012.
"The manager deserves credit for this win. Ever since he came to Chelsea, we have said that we had to improve on the situation we were in back then," Cech stated.
"He joined the club with the aim to win trophies. He couldn't do anything about our Champions League exit. Ever since we qualified for the Europa League, we really wanted to go for it. This competition deserves respect and it's great to have won."
The 30-year-old then went on to stress that winning the Europa League is nearly as important as last year's Champions League success.
"This is our first time in the Europa League and we managed to win the competition right away. I think we deserved this success, because we have played so many games and had a difficult schedule. We all worked very hard to achieve this. It's fantastic.
"This win comes close to last year's Champions League success. It's a difficult competition and you enter it as the favourites, so every team wants to beat you because you are the European champions. We had to fight each and every round."
Chelsea are the first team in history to be Champions League and Europa League holders at the same time following Wednesay's victory.