Sevilla produced a rampant second half display to overturn a sublime Daniel Sturridge goal and claim their third successive Europa League crown with a 3-1 win over Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool in Basel.
Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla
(Sturridge 35’ – Gameiro 46', Coke 64', 70')
A brilliant 25-minute spell for Sevilla, capped by a brace from their captain Coke, blew Liverpool away and saw the Andalusians lift the trophy for the third consecutive year, a first in UEFA Cup/Europa League history.
In a game marred by crowd trouble before kick-off, the English side dominated the first half before crumbling under a sustained Sevilla onslaught in the second.
Fans behind the goal at one end of St. Jakob Park in Basel weren’t segregated before the match, leading to several ugly clashes until security officers formed a human barrier. Once the game kicked off, the holders looked the more relaxed side early on. But it wasn’t long before Liverpool burst in to life and took a firm grip on the half, carving out a series of chances.
Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge both went close in the first 15 minutes before Roberto Firmino’s claim for a penalty was denied. The Spanish side continued to have more of the ball but failed to really threaten Simon Mignolet’s goal until the half-hour mark when striker Kevin Gameiro went close with a well-executed bicycle kick that flew past the post.
Liverpool’s higher intensity and potency was rewarded five minutes later. Daniel Sturrridge received the ball from Phillipe Coutinho on the left side of Sevilla’s box before curling an exquisitely placed shot around the defender and in to the far corner with the outside of his left boot.
Daniel Sturridge showed his quality in the first half, but, like his team, offered too little in the second half
On the touchline, Klopp pounded his chest, pumped his fists and pointed to his head, seemingly struggling to control his own emotions and communicate the right balance of passion and composure to his players.
He nearly had cause to celebrate again moments later as Dejan Lovren’s goalbound header was touched in by Sturridge, but the England man was rightly flagged offside. Liverpool scented blood. They poured forward at pace, almost extending their lead when a cross from Nathaniel Clyne flashed past Firmino and Sturridge.
Such was the Reds’ dominance in the opening period, Sevilla could consider themselves fortunate to go in to the break only a goal behind. But you don’t win consecutive European titles without the ability to bounce back, and Kevin Gameiro made Liverpool rue their missed opportunities just 17 seconds after the restart. Right-back Mariano skipped past Liverpool’s left-back - and former Sevilla man - Alberto Moreno all too easily before driving across goal for the French striker to tap in his 29th of the season. It was Unai Emery’s turn to celebrate on the touchline.
Coke scored two in the game, despite having scored none in his previous 24 appearances in the Europa League
Gameiro spurned two further chances and it looked, for a time, like Sevilla may have failed to learn from Liverpool’s profligacy. But they were not to be denied. The Spanish side cut a swathe through Liverpool’s midfield shortly after the hour mark with a series of one-twos involving Ever Banega and Vitolo, before skipper Coke caressed the ball past Mignolet for his first Europa League goal this season.
He didn’t have to wait long for his second. More disastrous defending from Liverpool saw the ball deflect off a Liverpool man and in to the path of Coke, who drove firmly at Mignolet. The Belgian goalkeeper got something on it but couldn’t prevent the Spanish side taking a two goal lead.
Liverpool’s spirit had been broken and they barely registered a shot for the rest of the game, as Sevilla kept them at arm’s length. As the final whistle blew, Emery was mobbed by his coaches while Klopp made a quick exit, wondering what might have been.