Sunday, September 27, 2020

Europa League final 2020: How Sevilla rode their luck to reach Inter showdown

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 21 Aug 2020

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Inter and Sevilla meet for the first time in European competition on Friday in the Europa League final in Cologne.

The Nerazzurri dropped out of the Champions League but have looked impressive in 2020, spearheaded by the fearsome Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

That said, Inter have only beaten Spanish opposition once in their past 12 attempts, their previous victory coming in a Champions League semi-final against Barcelona 10 years ago.

Sevilla’s pedigree in the competition is famous – they have won it five times since 2006 – but Julen Lopetegui’s men have undeniably ridden their luck in the knockout stages since winning their group comfortably ahead of APOEL, Qarabag and Dudelange, even if they are enjoying a club-record run of 20 games without defeat.

Here is the story of how each side reached the final…

SEVILLA

Last 32: Sevilla 1-1 CFR Cluj (Sevilla through on away goals)

While they were comfortably the better side in the first leg, Sevilla needed an 82nd-minute goal from Youssef En-Nesyri to win the game.

Back at home, they had 72 per cent possession but Cluj still had more shots on target, and just when Alexandru Paun looked to have sent the game to extra time, VAR spared the Spaniards.

Ultimately, they were a little fortunate to face a team with Cluj’s wayward finishing. The Romanian side converted fewer than a tenth of their shots in the competition in 2019-20.

 

Last 16: Sevilla 2-0 Roma

Into the single-leg ties enforced by the coronavirus pandemic, Sevilla faced another goal-shy team in Roma, who had failed to score in five of their previous seven meetings with Spanish opposition.

It was little surprise, then, when Sevilla eased into the last eight thanks to goals from Sergio Reguilon and En-Nesyri. Roma only managed one effort on target.

 

Quarter-final: Wolves 0-1 Sevilla

Raul Jimenez went into this game having scored each of his previous eight penalties for Wolves. And then, in the 13th minute of this clash, Bono saved his unusually poor spot-kick.

The miss seemed to shake Wolves from their stride. They didn’t manage another effort on target and, with two minutes of normal time left, Lucas Ocampos headed in Ever Banega’s delivery to send Sevilla through. 

 

Semi-final: Sevilla 2-1 Manchester United

The best win of Sevilla’s season – and perhaps their most fortunate.

They had a good spell after falling behind to Bruno Fernandes’ penalty and equalised through Suso, but the move started with a throw-in they should not have been awarded.

They then survived a barrage from United early in the second half before Victor Lindelof bizarrely let Jesus Navas’ cross pass him by to give Luuk de Jong a tap-in.

United out-shot Sevilla 20 to nine and forced Bono into several saves. Indeed, over their quarter-final and semi-final games, the Red Devils had 46 attempts at goal and only scored from Fernandes penalties.

INTER

Last 32: Inter 4-1 Ludogorets

Inter found it hard to break down Ludogorets away but, once Christian Eriksen and a Lukaku penalty sealed a 2-0 win, the tie appeared to be over.

Midfielder Cauly did cause some concern by putting the visitors ahead at San Siro, but Cristiano Biraghi and Lukaku promptly ended any fear of a comeback.

Lukaku’s exceptional form was only just beginning…

 

Last 16: Inter 2-0 Getafe

Getafe have caused plenty of more illustrious sides problems in LaLiga in the past couple of years and were arguably the better team for some of this contest.

Lukaku had put Inter ahead before Jorge Molina had the chance to level from the penalty spot, only to miss for the first time in two years.

Eriksen converted what was Inter’s second shot on target in the whole second half to settle the contest.

 

Quarter-final: Inter 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Antonio Conte set up his side to contain Leverkusen and the threat of Kai Havertz, and they mostly did just that.

Nico Barella broke the deadlock and Lukaku made it 2-0 after being set up by Ashley Young, before Havertz scored what proved to be just a consolation goal. VAR also twice denied Lukaku the chance to score more from the penalty spot.

This was Young’s 50th appearance in major European competitions and the 25th time he finished on the winning side.

 

Semi-final: Inter 5-0 Shakhtar Donetsk

This was the biggest margin of victory in any single UEFA Cup or Europa League semi-final match.

Two from Martinez, a Lukaku double and a Danilo D’Ambrosio header saw off a surprisingly sterile Shakhtar side.

Lukaku and Martinez became the first Inter duo to score 20 or more goals each in a season since Adriano and Obafemi Martins in 2004-05. Lukaku also set a record for scoring in 10 consecutive matches in the competition and took his tally to 18 goal involvements (14 scored, four assisted) in those 10 appearances.

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