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The ‘spirit of Palop’ propels Sevilla into the final

AS AS 02/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

Minute 94, Coke delivers a long throw-in into the area, Fazio flicks the ball on to the back post where Mbia leaps and thunders a powerful header into the net to make it 3-1 on the night, put Sevilla in the final and knock Valencia out. In an instant, Valencia, who looked on course to book their place in Turin after going 3-0 up, saw their dreams shattered. Pizzi’s side didn’t particularly seem to be under threat until Sevilla found a crack in their armoury in the dying moments. In a flash, the feeling in the city switched from euphoria to dismay. These things happen in football.

It reminded me of a piece I read by Woody Allen who reasoned that this is one of the wonderful virtues of sport, that is possesses the ability to brusquely change the atmosphere from one moment to the next – something which is near impossible to do in theatre or cinema. We’ve seen examples of that many times, and yesterday’s episode at Mestalla was just the most recent. Emery labelled it ‘The spirit of Palop’, in reference to the goal the keeper scored against Shakhtar Donetsk. Emery may have his detractors but I feel that he understands the nuances of the club much better than some people think. His homage to ‘the spirit of Palop’ reflects that perfectly.

Valencia were by far the better side on the night – for managing to turn the tie in their favour after taking a three-goal lead. Confidence restored, the fans were happy and chanted “Yes we can!” – remembering their famous quarter final comeback against Basel. If Valencia could be reproached for anything, it was the ballboys’ abuse of throwing balls onto the pitch to waste time. They were punished for that, maybe a little harshly but that’s what can happen and in a semi-final, only one team can advance and you face problems if you are unable to score away from home. What Sevilla lacked in their game, they made up for with the ‘spirit of Palop’ and now they’re in the final where they will meet Benfica, in Turin, on May 14.

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