Europa League 19/20 Roundup
Sevilla 3 - 2 Inter Milan
L de Jong 12' 33' R Lukaku 5' (p)
R Lukaku 74' og D Godin 35'
It’s happened again. Before the Europa league final, the two sides played out very different ties in the semis. Sevilla, a scrappy battle against an in-form Manchester United side and Inter Milan, a procession against a Shaktar side who had been a rampant goalscoring machine in the play off matches.
Inter this year under Conte appeared to have everything going for them. Romelu Lukaku firing on all cylinders with the Azzuri coming in second in the Serie A, just one point behind eventual winners Juventus. The league position could be forgiven by all in the blue half of Milan with a Europa League final win – but unlike it’s Champions League counter-part, this tie promised a shut-out – with both sides boasting some of the most impressive defensive stats of any European clubs.
The game itself was a complete juxtaposition of the two teams prior defensive solidity. 4 goals in the first half, because predictable isn’t football’s way, made for an extremely exciting second, full of chances and brilliant attacking moves. The goal that ended the game, an overhead kick from Diego Carlos – possibly lucky to still be on the pitch - was turned in by Romelu Lukaku of all people… strikers’ instinct. The man who seemed destined to win the game and cap a truly wonderful redemption season for Inter, had instead provided what would be the final nail in the coffin for Italy’s ultimate nearly men of 2020.
Sevilla’s record in this European competition is something to be envied by most of Europe’s top tier sides. To win a European title is one thing – to win the same European competition 6 times in 20 years is a monstrous feat of achievement. Sevilla’s dominance in the Europa league is further exaggerated by the fact it has been done by a side who, without any real investment - in the grand scheme of world football – have maintained the level of success in the competition that has allowed the fans so many celebratory moments.
This final also held great weight for Julen Lopetegui. In Sevilla, he’d inherited not just a ‘team’ but a tight knit club who at every level has a great comradery, which was not only highlighted in their play but the post-match celebrations. Sporting Director Monchi, recently returned from Roma, entered the fray and looking every bit as comfortable with the players as they were with each other. Monchi is a character who can arguably claim as much credit as the managers for the team that has performed so well in the competition over the years he has been in the fold.
A tribute was paid to the late Jose Antonio Reyes by Captain Jesus Navas, the Spaniard who tragically passed away after a car crash would have surely been looking down proudly at the end of this season – where one of his former sides Arsenal lifted the FA cup and Sevilla, whom he captained to Europa league glory himself in his final appearance at the club, lifted the European trophy aloft at the close of the night.
So it was redemption for Lopetegui, who with the victory for Sevilla he claimed his first piece of silverware as a manager. The club have qualified through both league and European routes to the Champions League next season, based on their success in the Europa league however, you could forgive the cynics for thinking they might fancy dropping out at the group stage and re-enter the competition they so regularly defend. That said, as we’ve seen from recent Champions League’s – with so many underdogs exceeding expectations – surely an outside favourite will topple the titans at some stage. With their dominance in the Europa League Sevilla must have some thinking that they could possibly be that club… possibly.