Middlesbrough and Sevilla contested the 2006 UEFA Cup Final Wednesday night and provided a fitting prelude to the coming World Cup. Only one team could win and that was Sevilla, lifting the trophy after a 4-0 win.
The sweet taste of victory
One of European soccer's last showpieces before the season's end was played out in balmy temperatures in Eindhoven on Wednesday night as English Premiership team Middlesbrough took on Spain's Sevilla in what was the first European final for both sides.
The preliminaries were played out in brilliant sunshine as the two sets of supporters danced, drank and sang together in a carnival atmosphere in the Dutch town where high-spirited English and Spanish supporters embraced each other and the spirit of the game before the two teams emerged onto the pristine pitch at the Philips Stadium.
Middlesbrough's defense was under almost constant siege
Boro found themselves in the final after nail-biting quarter- and semi-final comebacks and were looking to add the UEFA Cup to the 2004 English League Cup in their trophy cabinet. Sevilla had also dusted their shelves down in anticipation of adding the cup to their only trophy, the 1948 Copa del Generalissimo.
With such a historic victory awaiting one of the teams, the game started nervously as both clubs looked to settle first. Sevilla looked the more confident in the early stages with Daniel Alves firing in the first shot on two minutes, a long range effort which curled away from Mark Schwarzer but flew just wide.
Boro responded in typically robust style with Fabio Rochemback cracking a 25-meter free kick at goal five minutes later which Andres Palop found too hot to handle. javi Navarro just managed to hook the looose ball away as Stewart Downing looked to capitalize.
The Premiership team almost scored a minute later but at the wrong end. Chris Riggot's intervention almost squirmed past his goalie after Correia had slipped a low cross into the box. He almost repeated the feat as Sevilla stepped up the pressure.
Boro were playing a dangerous game by hitting the Spanish team on the break; a dubious tactic considering the rescue efforts needed after going behind to early goals in their previous two matches in the cup. Sevilla needed no further invitation and the Primera Liga side whizzed the ball around with aplomb as they looked for the breakthrough.
Premiership team hit by English move by Spaniards
Fabiano puts Sevilla 1-0 up
Sevilla continued to pull Boro out of shape with rapid movement and one-touch passing and they were definitely ahead on points midway through the first half. Sevilla then converted their possession into a goal on 27 minutes. A whipped cross into the box from Alves was met with a bullet header from Luis Fabiano which cannoned off the post and over the line with Schwarzer rooted to the spot.
Despite their recent reputation for staging breath-taking comebacks, Boro rarely threatened an equalizer as the first 45 minutes ticked away with Sevilla comfortably in control.
The English team were first out of the blocks in the second half as Boro went in search of parity with last-gasp striking hero Massimo Maccarone on for midfielder James Morrsion. Sevilla also brought on an extra attacker in Freddie Kanoute, raising the stakes higher.
Navas slips past Quedrue
Boro's search for an equalizer almost back-fired when Sevilla caught them on the break and Correia drifted inside Quedue on the left to bend a shot over Schwarzer but also just over the bar on 49 minutes. Boro responded quickly with their first real shot on goal two minutes later when Mark Viduka blasted a close range shot at Palop's legs with the goal gaping.
With 30 minutes to play, Boro started to look desperate. No longer was it the constant harrying of Sevilla forcing them into mistakes, they were fluffing their lines with no help at all. Sevilla looked happy to sit back and wait for a mistake to capitalize on.
Maresca double ends Middlesbrough's cup dream
That mistake came with just twelve minutes to go. A Sevilla counter attack swept from left to right, dragging Boro's defenders to the flanks. Navas dropped a shoulder and drifted inside before whipping in a shot which Schwarzer fumbled. Enzo Maresca was the first to react and he made sure from a meter out to make it 2-0.
Five minutes later and Boro's cup dream was in tatters. Alves floated in a cross to the penalty spot which was headed meekly away ro Maresca waiting on the edge of the box. He took one touch to control the ball before guiding a volley past Schwarzer for his second and Sevilla's third.
The Spanish team weren't finished. With seconds remaining, Maresca went for his hat-trick with a curling shot with the outside of his left foot. Schwarzer parried and the substitute Kanoute was on hand to score the fourth from close range.
Boro's coach Steve McClaren hoped to bow out with a major European trophy as a parting gift before taking charge of the England national team after the World Cup. Instead he had to make do with the distinction of taking his club team to their first European final -- and presiding over one of the cup's heaviest defeats.
Schwarzer, Paranaby, Riggott, Soutgate, Queudrue, Morrison, Rochemback, Boateng, Downing, Viduka, Hasselbaink
Palop, Alves, Navarro, Escude, David, Navas, Merti, Maresca, Correia, Fabiano, Saviola