Sevilla has claimed the junior of this season's European club competitions by winning the Europa League final 3-2 over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. The match was a great advertisement for an oft-denigrated competition.
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk were the heavy underdogs in this one, and as you might expect, they came out with a defensive set-up, often defending eight men deep. Defending champs Sevilla were initially stymied, and the Ukrainians made them pay on the break after only seven minutes.
Matheus was sent on his merry way on the right hand side, and he put in a perfect cross for Nikola Kalinic. Dnipro had the early lead they were looking for and retreated even further in defense. And it took the Spaniards more than 20 minutes to figure out a way through the bulwark.
Grzegorz Krychowiak, the only Polish player on the pitch in Warsaw, finally managed to level things just before the half-hour mark with a shot that went through a defender's legs. It was a somewhat lucky goal, but there was nothing fortunate about Sevilla's next strike.
Captain José Antonio Reyes threaded the needle with a superlative pass in midfield, and striker Carlos Bacca muscled his way past his markers and rounded the keeper. The defending champs were back in control in the 32nd minute.
Bacca bags a brace, Dnipro down to 10 men late
Surprisingly, Sevilla retreated after restoring their advantage, and again the Ukrainians weren't wasteful with the few chances they did create. Just before the halftime whistle, Ruslan Rotan curled in an absolute peach of a free kick from just outside the area.
It was a much better than expected match, and the two teams went into the changing rooms tied at 2-2.
The second half didn't live up to the first in quality, perhaps because the intensity took its toll on the players' legs. Sevilla's Vitolo appealed for a penalty in minute 70, but the referee's whistle remained silent on what was a 50-50 decision.
It didn't matter. Three minutes later Vitolo put in an incisive through-ball for man-of-the-match Bacca to score the match-winning goal.
Any chance Dnipro had of a late equalizer was scuppered when they went down to ten men shortly before time. Matheus was stretchered off the pitch after butting heads on an aerial challenge, and the Ukrainian side had already used up all its substitutions.
The match ended 3-2 to Sevilla. Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk can be proud of having put up a good fight - indeed it was an achievement to qualify for the final, despite the difficult political situation in their homeland. Meanwhile Sevilla reconfirm their status as the masters of the Europa League and become the first team ever to repeat as champions of this competition.