Sevilla came from behind to defeat Liverpool 3-1 in the UEFA Europa League Final on the 18th of May. Despite Liverpool taking the lead and looking confident of holding onto the result, it was the defending champions who made an immediate response in the second-half that stunned Jürgen Klopp’s side to win their third consecutive title. In doing so, they became the first side to win three consecutive European titles since Bayern Munich in 1976.
Here are five things that we learnt from Wednesday’s Final.
1.) From the second-half performance it was clear that Alberto Moreno couldn’t get out of his own-half, much to the credit of the opposition’s high-pressing tactics – infiltrated by Unai Emery. Moreno was at fault for Sevilla’s equaliser which occurred 17 seconds from kick-off in the second-half. First his headed clearance hadn’t gone very far and then when Mariano received the ball, Moreno was beaten very easily by the Brazilian who nutmegged the Spaniard before teeing up Kévin Gameiro for a tap-in. From this we can see that Moreno isn’t as good defensively as he is attacking. Therefore looking ahead, Klopp would be wise to look for a more defensive full-back in the transfer window. Despite singling Moreno out, he wasn’t the only one to blame for Liverpool’s defeat, although conceding a goal so early in the second-half demoralised the Reds.
2.) Sevilla weren’t at the races in the first-half but they have a habit for starting slow in Europa League Finals. In the two previous Europa League Finals prior to the game, Sevilla hadn’t scored the first goal of the game. Additionally, in those two Finals, Sevilla haven’t led at the break. They came from behind against Dnipro (2-2 at half-time) to eventually beat the Ukrainian side 3-2. They did the same against Liverpool and beat the Reds 3-1. From this it is clear to see that Sevilla tend to start slower in comparison to their opposition, but despite this, they always manage to start the second-half stronger and eventually get the win.
3.) Daniel Sturridge had an eventful first-half. The striker had a header cleared off the line before opening the scoring with a fine swerving effort with the outside of the foot, but hardly had a kick in the second period. Liverpool couldn’t give the striker the service he needed in the second 45 minutes and Sturridge looked an isolated player. Philippe Coutinho was unusually quiet as was the majority of Reds players. From this, it is clear to see that Liverpool need to strengthen their squad in the summer as Coutinho and James Milner cannot be relied on time and time again. Possible rumours suggest Mario Götze may be on the radar, a player who is more than capable of giving Sturridge the service he deserves.
4.) Sevilla are heavily influenced by the passing of one of their brightest young Spanish talents, Antonio Puerta who died due to a cardiac arrest days after collapsing on the pitch in a match against Getafe in 2007. Sevilla centre-back Daniel Carriço, who had spells at Sporting and a short stint at Reading said in a post-match interview with BT Sport, “It is three seasons in a row now and it is our competition. We have won and our star Antonio Puerta is up there, he is helping us.” Puerta scored the winning penalty against Espanyol in an all-Spanish UEFA Cup (as it was known back then) Final in 2007, and his memory is definitely cherished among the Sevilla players and fans. From this we can see that Puerta is a significant figure and that he is the incentive the players have to win for.
5.) The final thing we learnt from the game is that Liverpool players still don’t know how the offside rule works. Liverpool could have had a two-goal cushion had Sturridge not been active from an offside position after Lovren headed home. The striker should have left the ball as Lovren’s header beat David Soria, but due to Sturridge being active, the referee disallowed the goal. A two-goal margin may have been too much for Sevilla to claw their way back from. Sevilla’s third and final goal was a calamity. Nathaniel Clyne’s interception ricocheted off Coutinho into the path of Coke who became onside to fire home. Liverpool players were furious as they believed Coke was in an offside position. However, because the ball was played by not one, but two Liverpool players, Coke was played onside and he dispatched his shot successfully to seal the victory. It could be argued that the linesman’s flag may have excused the lacklustre defenders who stood still, but if there’s one lesson to be learnt from football: you must always play to the referee’s whistle.