Seventh Heaven for Sevilla in the Europa League

In pursuit of their fifth UEFA Europa League trophy across the last nine years, and in a bid to maintain their unblemished record in UEL finals, Sevilla manager José Luis Mendilibar was forced into one change from the side that defeated Juventus in the semi-finals, as on-loan Manchester United left-back Alex Telles replaced the suspended Marcos Acuña.

Meanwhile, AS Roma graced the Puskás Aréna for their maiden continental appearance on Hungarian soil seeking consecutive European success, after beating Feyenoord 1-0 in last season’s Conference League final.

SEV: Bounou; Navas, Gudelj, Badé, Telles; Fernando, Rakitić; Torres, Ocampos, Gil; En-Nesyri

ROM: Patrício; Mancini, Smalling, Ibañez; Cristante, Çelik, Matić, Spinazzola; Pellegrini; Dybala, Abraham

Hoping to become the first Italian side to lift back-to-back European trophies in the current century, Roma began the contest in front of a sold-out Puskás Aréna in assertive fashion and should have been ahead in the 12th minute, but Leonardo Spinazzola could only fire straight his effort from around the penalty spot at a grateful Yassine Bounou.

In a cagey affair, with both sides seeking to set down a precedence of dominance in the contest, Roma drew first blood ten minutes before half-time, as a now injury-free Paulo Dybala took full advantage of Gianluca Mancini’s instinctiveness by slotting the defender’s quickly-taken free-kick into the far corner past Bounou. 

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Made to be patient in their endeavours to work Rui Patrício in the Roma goal, Youssef En-Nesyri eventually had Sevilla’s opening gambit in the final third in the 39th minute, but i Giallorossi’s number one was up to the striker’s challenge, expertly getting both hands to the header. However, in the fifth of seven minutes added on in the first half, Sevilla did manage to beat Patrício – but agonisingly Ivan Rakitić’s ambitious long-range effort rebounded back off the right-hand post, with the veteran Portuguese goalkeeper beaten.

Knowing something had to be done to change his side’s misfortunes in front of goal, Sevilla manager José Luis Mendilibar unsurprisingly changed it up at half time – as Érik Lamela and Suso were introduced into the contest for the second 45 minutes.

Those alterations seemed to breathe a new burst of life into Sevilla’s attacking ranks, as they levelled up the contest in the 55th minute – despite in somehow fortuitous circumstances – as Mancini inadvertently sent Jesús Navas’ enticing cross from the right-hand flank beyond the grasp of Patrício. Determined to restore their lead, Roma were inches away from doing precisely that shortly after the hour-mark, but despite pandemonium and a countless number of bodies in the Sevilla box, Bounou smartly got down to prevent Tammy Abraham’s close-range strike from hitting the back of the net.

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Sevilla then thought they had been handed a glorious opportunity to complete their sensational second-half comeback with 15 minutes left to play in regular time after referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot following Roger Ibañez’s challenge on Lucas Ocampos. However, Los Nervionenses’ celebrations were crucially cut-short as VAR intervened to recommend the man in the middle consult his on-field monitor, and subsequently overturn his initial decision to award the penalty.

With time running out, Andrea Belotti should have won it for Roma, but the former Torino luminary – who is remarkably without a goal in Serie A this season could only disappointingly fire his effort wide of the mark – as both sides respectively began their preparations for an extra 30 minutes at the Puskás Aréna.

With no breakthrough in an exhaustingly-extended period of extra time, Chris Smalling’s header against the crossbar in the 131st minute was the closest either side came to a match-winner. Bounou and his opposite number Patrício physically, and mentally, readied themselves to potentially be the decisive factor in the penalty shootout. 

Ultimately, in an extraordinary carbon copy of the 2022 FIFA World Cup final, Argentine defender Gonzalo Montiel scored the winning penalty for Sevilla – at the second time of asking following encroachment from Patrício – as los Nervionenses began their celebrations after achieving a stunning seventh title in this competition.

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The victory secures Sevilla’s place in the Champions League for next season, as Mendilibar’s side further enhance their reputation as the specialists in gaining overall success in the UEL. Meanwhile, Roma will now turn their attention back to domestic matters for the final day of the 2022/23 Series A season, knowing a victory over relegation-threatened Spezia at the Stadio Olimpico would secure another campaign in the competition next season.

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