Sevilla FC kept their cool in the penalty shoot-out and SL Benfica appeared to lose theirs as the Andalusian outfit inscribed their name on the UEFA Europa League trophy for a record-equalling third time.
Beto saved two penalties as Sevilla condemned Benfica to a second successive final defeat and claimed a record-equalling third win.
After a final short on chances, where there was always a body in the way, Beto continued that into the spot kicks as he dived the right way to keep out attempts from Óscar Cardozo and Rodrigo. Carlos Bacca, Stéphane Mbia and Coke all converted, leaving Kevin Gameiro to stroke in the winner. After so much talk of Benfica’s 52-year wait to add to their two European titles – half a century that has encompassed eight losing finals – Sevilla have now won three in nine seasons.
The contrasting emotions at full time were almost as stark as the difference between the first 45 minutes and everything that followed. For all but the closing seconds of a full-blooded first half defenders held sway as they snapped into tackles and stuck so tight to their quarry that their shirts – quadruple-chasing Benfica in red, and white for Sevilla – became a pink blur.
Miralem Sulejmani provided the most obvious initial threat, twice bursting through on the right and twice being sent sprawling. There was no third time: not long after, the winger limped off. Jorge Jesus, already contending with three suspensions, had another problem. He brought on a defender, André Almeida, pushing Maxi Pereira into midfield. So the arm-wrestle continued, neither back line conceding ground as they harried and tarried any opponent trespassing in the final third.
Slowly, though, gaps began appearing. Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno tested Jan Oblak eight minutes before the break and moments from half-time Maxi Pereira almost got his name on the scoresheet as he met Rúben Amorim’s lofted pass. Beto stood tall and made a brave block from point-blank range, and was an assured presence again moments later as he beat away Rodrigo’s effort.
The game was transformed. Three minutes into the second period Sevilla were caught upfield and a goal seemed theirs for the taking, only for some committed last-ditch blocks from Nicolas Pareja and José Antonio Reyes to keep them out. Reyes was soon in more familiar territory, keeping Oblak busy in a frenetic flurry of end-to-end exchanges. From 45 minutes of no quarter there was suddenly almost no resistance.
Time and again, though, the considered final touch, the cool-blooded finish was missing. Even when an attacker did lock on their target a defender – usually wearing white as Sevilla were pegged further and further back – managed to get themselves in the way. So it continued into extra time, with heavy legs added into the equation and Bacca so nearly capitalised, surging clear and sending a rising effort just past the upright.
So, for only the third time in one-off finals, this competition went to penalties. Sevilla, of course, had been here before and the hero of their 2007 triumph over RCD Espanyol, Andrés Palop, was here to watch Beto repeat the feat. Seven years ago Unai Emery was a captivated observer as Palop inspired Juande Ramos’s Sevilla to success in this competition, “wondering what it would feel like”. Now he knows.
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