Sevilla savours a sixth Europa League title

The Spanish club lifted the Europa League trophy for the fourth time in the last seven seasons, defeating Inter Milan 3-2 in the final in Cologne.

The victorious Sevilla team with the trophy after the final in Cologne, Germany, on August 21. The club maintained its perfect record of lifting the Europa League trophy whenever it has reached the quarterfinals.   -  AFP

Sevilla’s dominance in the Europa League continued during the longest football season on record — precipitated by the global coronavirus outbreak — as the Spanish side claimed a record-extending sixth title in Cologne, Germany. And with it, its manager Julen Lopetegui finally salvaged some pride after being involved in unfortunate events at the Spain national football team and Real Madrid.

A 3-2 victory over Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan at the RheinEnergieSTADION on the night of August 21 helped Sevilla maintain its perfect record of lifting the Europa League trophy whenever it has reached the quarterfinals.

READ| Champions League: Single-leg knockout matches the new normal?

Both Sevilla and Inter had already sealed Champions League spots for next season after finishing in the top four of the 2019-20 La Liga and Serie A, respectively, and a win in the Europa League final, which was initially scheduled to be held in Gdansk, Poland, on May 27, would have been the icing on the cake for either team.

Eventually, Lopetegui’s team came out on top in the Covid-affected tournament, which was on pause for around five months, much to the delight of the boss who was sacked by Spain a few days before the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and fired by Real Madrid just 14 games into the job.

The night was also special for Sevilla captain Jesus Navas, who was wearing his late friend Antonio Puerta’s No. 16 jersey. The duo had won the UEFA Cup with Sevilla in 2006 and 2007.

READ| Champions League 2019-20: Semifinals and quarterfinals

Sevilla fell behind in the 2019-20 final as Inter striker Romelu Lukaku scored the opener in the fifth minute. The Belgian was brought down by centre-back Diego Carlos inside the box and moments later he converted from the spot. Seven minutes later, the hero from the semifinal against Manchester United, Luuk de Jong, headed in a Navas cross from the right flank to equalise.

De Jong then made it 2-1 in favour of his team at the half-hour mark when he scored with another header, this time jumping high at the far post to receive the ball from an Ever Banega free-kick.

A similar goal at the other end, scored by Diego Godin off a Marcelo Brozovic set piece, levelled the proceedings for Inter. However, Sevilla had the last laugh when a Carlos overhead kick in the 74th minute was buried into his own net by Lukaku.

READ| How to find the next Bhaichung Bhutia of Indian football

The own goal led Sevilla to its fourth Europa League triumph in the last seven seasons, while Spanish clubs have won the tournament in seven out of the previous 11 years. Teams from the country have also won seven of the last 12 Champions League finals, a sign of the country’s dominance in European competitions.