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

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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.

 

Iniesta joins Japanese club Vissel Kobe

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TOKYO (AP) Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumored for weeks.

Iniesta appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.

[READ: Earnie Stewart being considered for U.S. Soccer post]

“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”

Iniesta signed his contract as Mikitani watched, and then spoke through an interpreter.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Japanese media are reporting he will earn $30 million annually on a three-year deal.

“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”

Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.

Iniesta held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No. 8 on the back, and his name written across the bottom.

Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Vissel Kobe is in sixth place after 15 games in the J-League. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfielder unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.