Sevilla defended doggedly in a 0-0 draw before beating Benfica 4-2 on penalties to win the Europa League for the third time on Wednesday as the final curse of Bela Guttmann continued to haunt the Portuguese side.
Beaten 2-1 at the death by Chelsea in the same game 12 months ago, Benfica slumped to their eighth successive European final loss, putting a dampener on what had been a triumphant season.
Benfica had the best of the opening 90 minutes but failed to take their chances and the confidence seemed to ooze away from them in extra-time.
The writing appeared to be on the wall when Sevilla won the toss before the penalties and chose the end in front of their fans.
Paraguay striker Oscar Cardozo, who has had an unhappy season and missed a penalty for his country in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Spain, took a stuttering run-up before Benfica’s second penalty was saved by Beto.
Beto also stopped Benfica’s next spot-kick, a half-hearted Rodrigo effort, although the Sevilla goalkeeper appeared to move well off his line on each occasion.
Kevin Gameiro then fired home Sevilla’s fourth to clinch their third Europe League/UEFA Cup title.
“In the end, they (Benfica) were pushing forward more as we were tired and all the games that we have played this season took their toll,” Sevilla coach Unai Emery said.
“However, we have learnt to fight and cope with the difficult moments and we came out on top.”
Benfica’s losing run is often referred to as the “curse of Bela Guttmann”, the Hungarian coach who led them to successive European Cups in 1961 and 1962.
On leaving the club in acrimonious circumstances, Guttmann said they would never win another European title without him.
“We were better but in football, the best team doesn’t always in,” Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said.
“We had the more chances over 120 minutes but we didn’t take them.”
Sevilla, playing their 19th match in this season’s competition, gave Benfica an early scare when Vitolo cut the ball back to Carlos Bacca and Guilherme Siqueira dived in to intercept.
Benfica lost midfielder Miralem Sulejmani who injured his shoulder in a crunching tackle by Alberto Moreno.
Although the two sets of fans made a wall of noise each end, there were nearly 6,000 empty seats at the Juventus stadium, with an official attendance of just over 33,000.
The first half was often scrappy and niggly as Sevilla managed to blunt Benfica’s attacking edge.
Beto was called into action twice in quick succession before the break, first to stop an Maxi Pereira lob after the Uruguayan got in behind the Sevilla defence and then to block a Rodrigo effort after he burst down the …continued »