The curse continued for Benfica as Sevilla won the Europa League final via penalties on Wednesday, joining some illustrious company in the process.
After the game in Turin had ended 0-0 following 120 minutes of frantic and frequently engrossing football, goalkeeper Beto saved from Benfica duo Rodrigo and Oscar Cardozo to propel his side to a 4-2 victory in the all-important penalty shootout.
The triumph means the Spanish side have now won the competition three times (they previously won it in both 2006 and 2007), drawing them level with Inter Milan, Juventus and Liverpool as the most successful sides in the history of the competition.
For Benfica, however, the infamous “Curse of Bela Guttmann” continues: The Lisbon side have now not won a European final in eight attempts since the great coach left the club in 1962.
Benfica are the first club EVER to lose UEFA Cup finals in consecutive seasons.— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) May 14, 2014
The defeat was especially disappointing for Jorge Jesus’s side—who also lost at the same stage against Chelsea 12 months ago—considering they dominated large parts of the match, denied time and again only by some last-ditch defending from their dogged rivals.
But Unai Emery’s men held firm and took the game to the lottery of spot-kicks, holding their nerve as substitute Kevin Gameiro eventually slotted home the clinching kick.
Afterwards, Emery told reporters (per UEFA.com):
Benfica were—like us—fitting finalists. The game was quite even for large parts while towards the end they gave a harder push. You could really see the tiredness out there, the physical niggles. Ifthere is one thing we have learned how to do, it is to suffer. The players were prepared for this.
I dedicate the win to my family and friends, the technical staff and the players who deserve this for their hard work and dedication.
It's wonderful to reach a final and win it. Thanks to the club and its supporters we are here today.
|Lima - scored||Bacca - scored|
|Cardozo - missed||Mbia - scored|
|Rodrigo - missed||Coke - scored|
|Luisao - scored||Gameiro - scored|
Sevilla win 4-2 on penalties
Beto saves from Cardozo! https://t.co/YS0njaQDd7— Futbol Pictures (@FutbolPictures) May 14, 2014
It had been an entertaining game. The first half was generally one of passing and pressure without much real penetration, although there were a flurry of chances shortly before half-time.
The early exchanges were somewhat bullish, with Federico Fazio and Alberto Moreno booked for successive fouls on Miralem Sulejmani, who was forced off with a shoulder injury soon after.
Sevilla created the first real opening—Carlos Bacca was flagged offside as Jose Antonio Reyes tried to play him in, although Guilherme Siqueira made a great interception—and should perhaps have had a penalty when Bacca went down in the box under pressure from Luisao.
Benfica had their own shout moments later, as Fazio lunged in to prevent Nicolas Gaitan getting a clear sight of goal, but on both occasions the referee waved away the pleas.
As the game approached half-time, both sides suddenly created their best chances to break the deadlock. Moreno forced a smart save from Jan Oblak before Beto was called into action to deny Maxi Pereira from close range, the two goalkeepers combining to ensure the game went into the break without incident.
When the two sides returned, it was Benfica who dominated the chances, imposing themselves immediately on their opponents. Indeed, only the desperate defending of the Spanish side prevented them conceding—Moreno clearing off the line twice to somehow deny Lima with Beto beaten before Rodrigo saw his own effort charged down by Fazio.
Sevilla were struggling to contain their opponents, but with Benfica so willing to throw men forward, they found themselves with much more space to counter-attack. Twice they created good openings, although Oblak proved himself more than up to the challenge of keeping Reyes’ successive efforts out.
By now the match had developed into a high-class contest, with the ambitious nature of both sides leading to some inventive attacking and increasingly desperate defending. But with the hour mark passing and the deadlock still in place, it increasingly felt like a goal, any goal would decide the contest.
With Guttmann's curse—upon his departure, the coach supposedly said the club would not win another European trophy for 100 years—still lingering, every missed Benfica chance seemed to take on extra significance. It looked like it might be their moment when Pereira got in behind Ivan Rakitic and squared to Rodrigo in a central position, but somehow Coke came round in time to make yet another crucial block.
Perhaps Sevilla were leading a charmed life—they only got into the competition this season after two other Spanish sides were prevented from doing so due to financial issues.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes, both sides attempted to put a bit more stock in defensive stability with limited results. As they had done all night Benfica continued to press, and it was they who looked most likely to steal the game in regulation.
Beto made a phenomenal save from Lima to push the forward’s 30-yarder over the crossbar, but seconds later was nearly caught out by Rodrigo’s inswinging cross, as he missed the ball, and Garay, arriving at the far post, saw his header climb only marginally over the crossbar.
The defender had another chance minutes later, but when his ambitious bicycle kick flew comfortably over the goal once again, the game was set to head into extra time.
Extra time brought a more conservative approach to the game from both sides, although Benfica did make the rather bold move of bringing on the striker Cardozo for the defender Siqueira. Gaitan tested Beto with a long-range free-kick, but it was Sevilla who created the best chance, as Rakitic played through Bacca with a glorious long ball on the break.
The forward easily had the pace to outrun Pereira, but with only Oblak to beat, he fired his arrow-straight shot inches wide of the far post.
The second half of extra time saw both sides suffer with tired legs and tired minds. Again, the pattern broadly involved Benfica applying the pressure and Sevilla trying to hit quickly on the break, but neither side had either the fresh minds or the fresh legs to succeed where they had failed over the previous 105 minutes.
That sent the game to penalties.
Both opening penalties were scored, by Lima and Bacca respectively, before Cardozo chipped in. The Paraguay international stutter-stepped during his run-up but Beto was not fooled, diving to his right to make a fine save.
You can't watch players take run ups like Cardozo and Rodrigo and tell me penalties are a lottery.— James Maw (@JamesMawFFT) May 14, 2014
On-loan QPR midfielder Stephane Mbia then converted to drive home Sevilla’s advantage, before Rodrigo repeated his fellow striker’s error as Beto went the other way but made the stop.
Coke then beat Oblak’s outstretched hand to put his side one goal from victory—meaning that even after Luisao had shown his attackers how it was done, Gameiro’s successful finish duly decided the final.
In extra time, the team that played with more belief ended up winning," Jesus noted. "The best team did not win the Europa League.
"I congratulate my players and there is nothing I can criticise. We leave with our heads held high and there is no point dwelling on this. We have another [domestic cup] final on Sunday."
For both sides it was a familiar feeling. For Sevilla, another success in Europe. For Benfica, more time to dwell on a curse that shows no immediate signs of ending, after 52 years and counting.
|Jose Antonio Reyes||6|