Sevilla came from behind to beat Liverpool 3-1 in the Europa League final at the St. Jakob-Park in Basel on Wednesday night. Daniel Sturridge had given the Reds the lead in the first half before Sevilla stormed back in the second half to score thrice and defend their title.
The win sees Sevilla qualify for the Champions League group stages yet again. Meanwhile, Liverpool will not be in Europe next season after finishing eighth in the Premier League this season.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Moreno, Can, Milner (C), Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho, Sturridge
Sevilla: Soria, Mariano, Rami, Carrico, Escudero, Krychowiak, N'Zonzi, Coke (C), Banega, Vitolo, Gameiro
Before this final, both Sevilla and Liverpool had won every Europa League final they had taken part in. Los Nervionenses had won it four times, including the last two, while Liverpool had won it thrice when it was called the UEFA Cup.
Jurgen Klopp’s side started with the same lineup that beat Villarreal 3-0 in the second leg of the semi-final. The attacking trio of Firmino, Coutinho and Sturridge started up front. Sevilla’s player of the season in the competition, Kevin Gameiro, started up front for the Liga side. The French forward had scored seven goals and also made two assists before the final.
Liverpool rewarded for sustained attack in first half
Liverpool took a few moments to get themselves into the game as Sevilla looked to get on the front foot early. But soon after, the Reds took charge in the first 15 minutes. Emre Can took the first shot on goal from 25 yards out and Sevilla goalkeeper David Soria opted to parry it away rather than catch it.
Soon after, Liverpool tried to attack through Sevilla’s left, looking to attack their left-back Sergio Escudero. Nathaniel Clyne managed to send in a teasing cross towards the far post that saw Sturridge leap into the air and head it down into the six-yard box. Although Soria was beaten, Daniel Carrico cleared the ball before Firmino even got a sniff of a shot.
Moments later, the Reds had a penalty shout denied when Firmino attempted to get past Carrico. The ball popped up into the air before making contact with Carrico’s hand. As much as Firmino protested with the referee, it was the right call as Carrico was looking to move his hand out of the way and had no time to react.
Liverpool continued to mount pressure on the Sevilla defence. A reversed pass from Lallana should have been put away by Sturridge but Soria was up to the task and made himself large to prevent both the shot or a possible pass back across the six-yard box.
Sevilla were struggling to move the ball into the final third with Gameiro barely getting any service up front. Simon Mignolet was hardly tested in the first 30 minutes but did have his heart in his mouth when Gameiro managed to latch on to a cross into the box with a spectacular bicycle kick that went wide of the post.
Klopp’s men were finally rewarded with a goal 10 minutes from the half-time whistle. A patient build-up saw the ball reach Daniel Sturridge on the left side of the box. Without warning, the English striker took a shot with the outside of his boot that curled back in at the far post, beating Soria who reacted too late to make the diving save.
They almost had a second soon after on a corner kick when Lovren managed to find the target with a header. But the offside flag went straight up after Sturridge was guilty of sticking his leg out near the goalmouth to guide it in.
Half-time could not come quickly enough for Sevilla who really needed to get the team together and have a chat on what was going wrong. The dying stages of the first half almost saw Liverpool double their lead when Clyne’s cross across goal missed everyone and went out for a throw-in.
Sevilla storm back in second half
If Liverpool needed a few minutes to wake up in the first half, they were fast asleep at the start of the second as Sevilla equalised in no time. 17 seconds to be exact. Unai Emery had weaved his magic at the half.
A run form Mariano on the right saw him easily skip past Alberto Moreno and the Brazilian sent in a sumptuous cross that was easily put away by Kevin Gameiro. It was his eighth goal of the season in the Europa League and Sevilla were suddenly right back in the game at 1-1.
If that wasn’t a wakeup call for Liverpool, Gameiro’s next attempt was. Liverpool’s high line was easily beaten with one pass to release the Frenchman and he could have easily made it 2-1 in three minutes if not for a desperate, but effective, sliding tackle from Kolo Toure.
The Reds were falling apart at the back with Gameiro having yet another chance on goal form close range that was destined to find the back of the net before Mignolet intervened and parried the shot as Toure lost his cool and yelled at his back-line to stay focused.
It did little good as the Anfield side were torn apart in a beautifully worked move that saw five Sevilla players involved. One touch passing saw them advance the ball towards Liverpool’s box before Coke took a first-time shot that curled past Mignolet to make it 2-1.
Liverpool crumble after controversial Sevilla goal
With 20 minutes to go, Coke doubled his Europa League goal tally with a rather controversial goal. The Spaniard received the ball in the box before he took a shot that beat Mignolet in spite of the Belgian goalkeeper getting a hand to it.
Although he looked offside and there was some confusion over the linesman’s decision, the referee eventually awarded them the goal to complete a dramatic comeback. Klopp was livid on the touchline in spite of the explanation from the linesman. Coke, aghast at first, continued with his celebration as boos rang out at St. Jakob-Park from the Reds fans.
Sevilla soon resorted to a bit of time-wasting as they looked to finish the game with a two-goal cushion. Even when they won a free-kick on the right wing, they did not bother committing too many men forward. But Gameiro and Coke still looked to pounce on any opportunity to take advantage of Liverpool’s high line.
Even though four minutes of time was added on, Liverpool simply lacked the bite to threaten Soria in Sevilla’s goal. The final whistle saw Sevilla’s players celebrate even as Liverpool fans broke into a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to toast their fallen heroes.