Monday, June 17, 2024

Sevilla 1-1 Roma (4-1 pen.): Talking points as La Liga side win difficult battle to confirm status as Europa League kings

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In a battle between the team and the manager that had never lost a European final, Sevilla proved too much for Jose Mourinho at the Ferenc Puskas Arena in Budapest on Wednesday evening.

The regular match-time ended without a winner as Paulo Dybala broke the deadlock in the 35th minute and saw an unfortunate deflection off Gianluca Mancini pull the Spanish side back level in the 55th. The 30 minutes of extra-time yielded no change on the scoreboard, and in the end, Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou proved a hero for his team as he saved the spot-kick shots from Mancini and Roger Ibanez, while Lucas Ocampos, Erik Lamela, Ivan Rakitic and Gabriel Montielo all converted theirs.

The game

The contest started the way most would’ve expected it to, with Sevilla not having much difficulty in keeping the ball and moving forward, while Roma defended with a an alternative approach of dropping deep and pressing high, as served the occasion.

Mourinho appeared particularly keen on preventing Jose Mendilibar’s men, particularly fullbacks Jesus Navas and Alex Telles, from causing problems from the flanks, and both Leonardo Spinazzola and Zeki Celik, the two Roma wing-backs, occasionally moved very high to put pressure on the Sevilla fullbacks. But if the press was broken, they were always quick to drop back.

Sevilla’s approach, of course, left a lot of open space between Bono in the goal and the back line for Roma to exploit. In the 11th minute, a relatively quick switch of play by Spinazzola found Dybala on the right wing. The former Juventus attacker involved Celik on the underlap, and the ball eventually found its way back to Spinazzola, whose shot from a great position went straight into Bono.

But in the 35th minute, Mancini won the ball in the middle of the park and slid a fine pass through Sevilla’s lines for Dybala to chase, and the Argentinian made no mistake to send his team ahead. At that point, Mourinho’s plan worked perfectly and it seemed it would be very difficult for Sevilla to find a way to break it.

And yet, hope for the Spanish side remained as long as they were just one goal down and superior on the ball. They had a good chance to equalize three minutes before the break, but Fernando failed to score with a free header from six yards, having been found there by an excellent far-post corner from Ivan Rakitic. Deep into the first half stoppage time, Rakitic decided to take matters into his own hands and let one fly from range, slamming it against the post with Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio already beaten.

Sevilla turned up the volume even more at the start of the second half, but there was still no way through the Giallorossi wall in front of Patricio. Ocampos tried a scissor-kick and failed, and Telles had a relatively promising moment when his shot from a tight angle at around 15 yards flew over the bar.

And then, just as it seemed Sevilla would continue circling the box to no tangible effect for the rest of the game, Roma did their work for them. Navas had finally managed to whip in a useful cross from the right, and the failure of Chris Smalling to clear only confused Mancini and obscured his vision. The close proximity of Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri put the Italy international under even greater pressure, and his reaction turned into disaster as he diverted past the helpless Patricio.

With the momentum of the contest now strongly in their favour, Sevilla sought to turn the game around completely, and it was past the hour-mark when Roma finally started putting Bono under pressure again. But in the 66th minute, a deep cross from Lorenzo Pellegrini caused a desperate scramble inside Bono’s six-yard box, and having saved an initial close-range attempt from Abraham, the Morocco international was very fortunate in the end as Ibanez whacked the rebound embarrassingly far from the target.

As the second half stoppage time got underway, Sevilla substitute Suso, who looked rather lively since entering the fray after the break, had a go from range and Patricio looked uncomfortable as he saved it, and Fernando followed that up with an effort of his own which trickled just wide of the target.

Both sets of players looked understandably tired throughout the 30 minutes of extra time and there was very little threat at either end, though Smalling came close with a looping header in the dying seconds which bounced off the bar, and substitute Andrea Belotti failed to control the rebound.

Those chosen to take the spot kicks for Sevilla looked far more confident than their Roma counterparts, and their victory in the end was deserved.

Controversies

There has been much criticism at the expense of English referees this season, but it should be said that Anthony Taylor controlled a very difficult match very well, all things considered. There was a total of 14 yellow cards awarded, six for Sevilla including one for Rafa Mir for dissent from the bench, and eight for Roma including one for a livid Mourinho.

In the 75th minute, he awarded a penalty to Sevilla as Ibanez appeared to have tripped Ocampos in the box, but the slow-motion footage reviewed by the VAR told a different story and the former Ajax winger was lucky to avoid a yellow card for simulation. Taylor can’t really be blamed here as it truly looked to have been a foul on the Sevilla winger, and the VAR did its job well to correct the decision.

Roma also had a penalty claim soon afterwards as a cross from Nemanja Matic caught Fernando’s arm inside the box, but both Taylor and the VAR judged the arm of the Sevilla midfielder to have been in a natural position, and there was no way to tell for certain that Fernando could’ve avoided it.

Nonetheless, it’s hardly surprising that Mourinho, known for his frequent bursts of wrath towards officials, was still fuming after the shootout, and he confronted Taylor later in the car park of the Puskas Arena with some very hard words, for which he’s likely to face disciplinary action from UEFA. The Portuguese tactician also said he has never been as proud of his team as after this game, regardless of the final outcome.

The aftermath

First of all, it should be said that it’s no small feat for this Roma side to have reached the final, so soon after winning the first edition of the Conference League last term. There’s plenty for Mourinho to be proud of, especially the discipline and fighting spirit his men showed against such high-quality opposition.

But while Roma will have beat Spezia at the Olimpico on Sunday evening to ensure a place in another Europa League mix, Sevilla will be playing in the Champions League despite sitting 11th ahead of the final La Liga round of 2022/23. It’s their seventh triumph in this competition – more than double of their nearest rivals in that aspect; Liverpool, Juventus, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid have three each.

It probably bears special significance for Jesus Navas, who’s won this trophy four times over two spells with this extraordinary club.

Fiorentina and Inter will have a chance each to uphold the honour of Italy in Europe, facing West Ham in the final of the Conference League and Manchester City in the Champions League final, respectively, in the next 10 days.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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