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Ashley Cole salutes strength of European kings

WINNERS: Ashley Cole with team captain John Terry (PA)

CHELSEA DEFENDER Ashley Cole has hailed his team’s fortitude in winning yet another European title last night.

The west London club beat Benfica 2-1 in the final of the Europa League, with Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic grabbing the goals in the Amsterdam Arena.

Chelsea, conceding a penalty goal to Oscar Cardozo, have made history by being first English side to win the Cup Winner’s Cup, Champions League and Europa League, and their England left-back is certainly enjoying that winning feeling.

After claiming his latest trophy, the 32-year-old Cole, who ditched Arsenal for the Blues in 2006, told Chelsea TV: “I'm not too sure how many (medals) I've won, but I still enjoy the feeling of winning.

“I think we've got that mentality never to give up. You look at the weekend against Villa – we never gave up, kept the pressure on.

“We dominated clear-cut chances and we're lucky we've got Brana [Ivanovic] with his big head to score the header.”

Cole’s Serbian team-mate left it until late to score the winning goal with a looping header from a Juan Mata corner kick – 92 minutes had already elapsed before the ball bulged the back of the net.

TROPHY TIME: Chelsea are well versed in winning on the continent

The victory for the now undisputed kings of the continent crowns what has been a taxing season for a team that has played under two different managers – Roberto Di Matteo was sacked last November paving the way for Rafael Benitez to take charge, to the dismay of many fans.

It was also Chelsea’s 68th game of the season, which has seen them compete in eight tournaments. The Champions League holders were only in the Europa League because they suffered the embarrassment of being the first champions to be sent packing from the tournament’s group stages.

Benitez, who may have finally won some begrudging respect from the fans, employed a rotation policy for his squad to navigate their congested fixture list – and Cole acknowledged his team-mates who did not play in the final.

“I'm just happy to be playing,” he said.

“It was a pity for the people injured, like JT and Ryan, Eden Hazard. Disappointed for them.

“But it was a team effort through not just this game but the other games so we'll celebrate as a team.”

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