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It wasn’t Béla Guttmann this time... it was Sevilla

AS AS 15/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

How marvellous football is when you win – but what suffering you can go through! Sevilla, or to be more precise their captain Rakitic, lifted the Europa League trophy – their third in just a few years and one which joins the European Super Cup in their growing trophy room display. None of their previous triumphs were as hard-fought as this one though, which came at the tail end of a season in which they changed presidents, revamped the entire squad with 15 new faces coming in and were constantly rowing against the tide in their European campaign, making the final after heroic performances against Betis and Valencia.

The final itself was a joy to watch with Benfica gradually stepping up the pressure as the game wore on. The tense was almost too much to bear as the end of regulation time neared and it got worse as the game was taken to extra-time. Players dropped like flies, reeling from cramp and there were two chances, from Bacca and Gameiro – both the end product of counter-attacks that very nearly brought the match a conclusion before the dreaded shoot-out. Benfica never let the game slip from their grasp, drawing strength to take on Sevilla and grapple against the curse meted out by Béla Guttmann who must have sensed something when he seethed that the Portuguese giants’ fate would be sealed in continental competition for so long.

When it was time for the penalty shoot-out, we wondered who would take them. Those who did, delivered their spot-kick with aplomb: Bacca, Mbia, Coke and Gameiro. There was no need for a fifth penalty because Beto had already saved two of Benfica’s (advancing off his line for the first one, thank you Mr Brych) and flinging himself low, where it hurts. That was how Benfica lost their eighth European final since refusing to bow to Béla Guttmann’s salary demands – before that they had won two consecutive European Champions Clubs’ Cups with him – one against Kubala’s Barcelona, the other, against Di Stéfano’s Real Madrid. But we shouldn’t give him too much merit for last night’s events but rather applaud Sevilla, a side with class and courage as immortalised in their old club hymn. Sevilla, Sevilla, Sevilla! Three-time champions!

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