Who says players don’t care about the UEFA Europa League (once they reach the quarterfinals or round of 16)? Who says that Cup final are always/have to be cagey, boring affairs?
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Sevilla, the 2013-14 Europa League winners, narrowly defeated a courageous Dnipro (Ukraine) side full of fight, 3-2, at the Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw, Poland, to win back-to-back Europa League titles, and this this, book a place in next year’s UEFA Champions League.
Dnipro, thought to be significant underdogs ahead of kickoff, opened the scoring before the clock read seven minutes. Matheus got down the right side of Sevilla’s penalty area and crossed to the back post, where Nikola Kalinic was waiting. Kalinic headed the ball downward and beat Sergio Rico to make the score 1-0.
The lead lasted barely 20 minutes, though, as Grzegorz Krychowiak equalized in the 28th minute. Carlos Bacca, Sevilla’s leading scorer this season, received a cross near the penalty spot, where he controlled and laid the ball off to the Polish midfielder, whose right-footed shot rolled past goalkeeper Denys Boyko and found the back of the net.
Bacca got himself on the scoresheet three minutes later, when the Colombian was fed through by Reyes, rounded Boyko and slotted home from a tight, right angle. For Bacca, it was his 28th goal of the season in all competitions. 2-1, Sevilla.
The lead was relatively short-lived for Sevilla, though, as Dnipro hit back and equalized a minute before halftime. Ruslan Rotan curled a stunning free kick under Rico’s crossbar to equalize in the 44th minute, beating the wall and the ‘keeper.
With both sides realizing their European run was just 45 minutes from coming to a tearful end, and that one mistake could undo eight months of Europa League endeavors, the second half got off to a decidedly slower, less exciting start. For 28 minutes, Sevilla and Dnipro played to a stalemate.
Then came the 73rd minutes, Bacca’s time to shine once again. Vitolo played Bacca a splitting through ball into Dnipro’s box, Bacca raced to get on the end of it and delivered the pinpoint, left-footed, first-time strike from 10 yards out (above video). Boyko had no chance to get down and cover his far post, and Sevilla had the lead again, 3-2.
Bacca nearly doubled Sevilla’s lead in the 79th minute, when Stephane Mbia’s cross found Bacca at the top of the six-yard box. Bacca headed the ball downward, but the onrushing Boyko made the flailing save with the inside of his right arm from point-blank range.
With their latest Europa League triumph, Sevilla become the first side to win UEFA’s second-tier continental competition in consecutive seasons since…Sevilla themselves did it in 2006 and 2007.