Italy Soccer Europa League Final

Sevilla 0 Benfica 0 (4-2 pens): Sevilla wins UEFA Europa League title


After 90 minutes and two extra time periods without a goal, the UEFA Europa League title came down to penalties where Sevilla keeper Beto made two huge saves to hand his side the title.

Despite the scoreless draw it was decent entertainment for the fans at Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy, with fierce attacks counter-balanced by fantastic defending, and, in particular brilliant goalkeeping by Beto and Benfica netminder Jan Oblak.

In the end, the night was decided on penalties and it was a two fine saves by Beto in conjunction with goals by Carlos Bacca, Stephane M’Bia, Coke and Kevin Gameiro to hand Sevilla their third title in the competition.

It was a frantic opening to the match with both sides struggling for control after the high pace left both clubs scrambling. The first chance came the way of Benfica in the 14th minute when Nicolas Gaitan swung the ball over to Ezequiel Garay at the back post but his volley was saved by Beto.

Gaitan looked lively early on, popping up in little pockets of space and pestering the Sevilla defense but in the 37th minute it was the Andalucian’s who spurned a good opportunity when Jose Antonio Reyes found Alberto Moreno in the channel. The left-back cut back cleverly and attempted a curling shot but Oblak was up to the task.

Before the halftime whistle blew Benfica charged forward with a flurry of good chances, one by Maxi Pereira and one by Rodrigo, but both were well-saved by the ubiquitous Beto.

Three minutes into the second half and Benfica looked destined to take the lead as Garay floated a lovely pass over to Lima, who had Beto beat but was couldn’t get past the scramble of Sevilla’s Nicolas Pareja. The heat was on and within 60 seconds Rodrigo and Lima each pounced on rebounds but again, the Sevilla defense managed to snuff out the opportunities.

Thirty minutes of back and forth play saw Rodrigo and Reyes exchange half-chances, before Lima’s dipping shot from a left-side cut in was tipped over by Beto. An entertaining 90 minutes concluded when Maxi Pereira’s shot on goal fell invitingly for Garay, who’s acrobatic volley flew over the bar. With the two sides impossible to separate, extra time awaited.

Nine minutes into the first period of extra time and the tireless Lima was at it again, this time unleashing a fierce bouncing shot that Beto did well to get his body behind. Two minutes later and the pendulum swung back in Sevilla’s favor as Ivan Rakitic sprung Carlos Bacca but his shot bent just wide of the far post. In the second stanza tired legs set in and Kevin Gameiro’s half-chance nearly broke the deadlock but instead bulged the side netting before the final whistle blew indicating penalties.

In the first round both sides scored through Lima and Bacca. In the second set, Oscar Cardoza had his pen saved by Beto while Stephane M’Bia powered his shot home to give Sevilla a 2-1 lead. Beto came up big again in the third round when he saved Rodrigo’s effort before Coke doubled the La Liga side’s lead. In the fourth round Luisao kept Benfica’s hopes alive but they were soon dashed but by Gameiro who fired hard to the keeper’s right to give Sevilla their third title in the competition and maintain the impressive a 100% winning record in UEFA finals.


Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.