Thursday 12/3/20

Unfortunate Lukaku wins Europa League for Sevilla

The Champions League equivalent concludes Sunday in Lisbon with Bayern Munich taking on Paris Saint-Germain.

Sevilla players celebrate with the trophy after winning the UEFA Europa League. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/UEFA/dpa.
Sevilla players celebrate with the trophy after winning the UEFA Europa League. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/UEFA/dpa.

Romelu Lukaku scoring the winner in the Europa League final was no surprise - but few would have expected the on-form Inter Milan striker to settle the game in Sevilla's favour.

Lukaku turned Diego Carlos' overhead kick into his own net in the 74th minute to hand Sevilla a 3-2 victory in Cologne on Friday and a record-extending sixth Europa League title.

"This group deserve this," said Sevilla captain Jesus Navas. "We've been fighting all season and getting over the problems that we've encountered."

It was a merited triumph, just about, for Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla who had led 2-1 in the first half from Luuk de Jong's brace of headers.

Lukaku had opened the scoring with a fifth minute penalty and Inter defender Diego Godin equalized to cap a thrilling start to the final.

The second period was a cagier affair with Lukaku the decisive figure. Just before his unfortunate defensive intervention he missed a one-on-one with Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou as Inter's nine-year trophy drought was extended.

"We are very disappointed but we have to move on," said Inter keeper Samir Handanovic. "We just hope to play many other important games like this in the future."

UEFA_Europa_League_Lukaku-Inter-Milan

Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring his side's first goal. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images via UEFA/dpa.

In an empty stadium

Sevilla received the trophy they know so well in an empty stadium at the conclusion of the coronavirus-enforced mini-tournament in western Germany.

The Champions League equivalent concludes Sunday in Lisbon with Bayern Munich taking on Paris Saint-Germain.

Game after game in a hectic window threw up contrasting storylines with Lukaku turning to villain and Sevilla defender Carlos becoming the unlikely hero.

Lukaku was widely considered the top player going into the final and needed only three minutes to make his mark. He muscled past Carlos on the counter, was brought down in the box and converted the penalty.

It ensured his Europa League scoring record extended to 11 consecutive games dating from his time with Everton in 2014 and was his 34th goal of a brilliant debut season with Inter.

Carlos had conceded a penalty for the third time in three games during Sevilla's stay in Germany, though he at least had the benefit of the doubt in not being dismissed for his cynical foul.

That proved crucial as he contributed to the late winner when Inter failed to clear a free kick.

As the ball dropped high from the air, he made a superb connection with his acrobatic strike. The ball was going just wide but Lukaku's instinctive foot made the difference.

A chance to force extra-time

"We had the chance to take the lead but unfortunately we missed it," said Handanovic. "I think Sevilla were more tired than us in the final part of the game but they had this chance, the ball was deflected by Romelu's foot and went in. It happens."

Inter's best chance to force extra-time was a scramble but substitute Alexis Sanchez had his poke cleared off the line by Jules Kounde.

Sevilla equalized in the 12th minute when De Jong dashed across Godin to power home a near-post header and the Dutch forward put his team in front by heading in Ever Banega's 33rd minute free kick.

Veteran defender Godin replied just two minutes later, heading in Marcelo Brozovic's free kick to become just the sixth player to score in both a European Cup/Champions League final and a UEFA Cup/Europa League, according to statisticians Opta.

It ensured parity at the end of a breathless first half which included a booking for Inter coach Antonio Conte for protesting a non-penalty award against - who else - Carlos.

Conte had named an unchanged side for the fourth game in a row while counterpart Lopetegui was immediately justified in starting de Jong after he came off the bench to defeat Manchester United in the semi-final.

"My emotion is very big because we have worked very hard and we deserved to win against a fantastic team like Inter," said Lopetegui, who also earned himself some redemption in his debut season with Sevilla after a disastrous spell with Real Madrid.

Winger Lucas Ocampos was fit but had a subdued game after a thigh problem and played with heavy strapping on his leg before going off midway through the second half.

Sevilla's title triumph follows 2006, 2007, 2014, 2015 and 2016 while Inter failed to add to three UEFA Cup wins in the 1990s and three Champions' Cup successes, the last of which was 2010 when coached by Jose Mourinho.

Comments