KEIR RADNEDGE in BASEL —- Sevilla were losers in the hype battle before the Europa League Final here in the St Jakob-Park and a goal down at half-time. Yet guts, skill and determination saw them turn the game on its head in the second half to win, deservedly, by 3-1. It could even have been more. Liverpool ran out of steam and Sevilla ran all over them.
Jurgen Klopp’s dynamic new translation of his old European stagers saw Liverpool lead 1-0 through a finely-judged strike by Daniel Sturridge at the interval but the Spanish holders of the trophy levelled 17 seconds after the interval through Kevin Gameiro before two-goal captain Coke shot them to a third successive cup win and fourth in all.
For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp another painful statistic was nailed by the final whisle with his luckless run of five successive lost finals – three with Borussia Dortmund and now two this season with Liverpool after the League Cup Final beating at the hands of Manchester City.
UEFA had its own pressures with which to deal. The European federation had been roundly criticised for taking the match to a comparatively small stadium and organisers could not even get that right.
No apparent segregation existed between fans at the notional Sevilla end and thus various scraps erupted.
Eventually police arrived and draw up a human fence between them but this just about summed up some of the organisational failings generally for which UEFA should fine itself. It can no longer, after all, suspend its president as punishment.
Once the match took focus it was Sevilla quicker into their stride, as if trying to prove that they could raise a tempo too. For all their neat passing in and around defence and midfield, however, they lacked the cohesion and perception to make any attacking inroads.
Hence the first meaningful shot was a 25m drive from Imre Can which tested keeper David Soria, diving to his right. Then Nathaniel Clyne’s cross from the right, headed down and at goal by Daniel Sturridge, was hooked away to safety by Daniel Carrico.
Around the halfhour mark it was Sevilla’s turn to press forward. Liverpool were unable to stifle the peripatetic Ever Banega whose vision and imaginative passing began to pull Liverpool around. Sevilla, gaining in confidence, forced a couple of corners in a spell of pressure which ended with a bicycle kick effort from Gameiro skudding narrowly wide of Simon Mignolet’s right-hand post.
Liverpool’s 34th-minute ripste was perfect, as they took the lead through a delicately judged shot from Daniel Sturridge. Philippe Coutinho, quiet thus far, provided the lay-off and Sturridge took a couple of touches before his left-foot shot, clipped through a narrow defensive gap, pierced goal just inside Soria’s left-hand post.
With Liverpool having had three penalty claims for handball dismissed by referee Jan Eriksson, Klopp might have felt themselves unlucky to be only one goal ahead. But the failure to force any more was punished within 17sec of the second half.
Mariano Ferreira tore hole through the Liverpool left flank and his perfect low cross was squared hime by Gameiro.
The Frenchman should have scored again just before the hour when Liverpool’s defence fell open again but, despite being unmarked, his swipe at the left-wing cross ricocheted off Mignolet and over the bar for a corner.
Suddenly Sevilla were in command and then in the lead. Vitolo cut in from the left, was allowed to exchange return passes twice and only relinquished control when skipper Coke shot the ball off his feet and into the net.
Growing concern on the Liverpool bench was evidenced by the introduction of Divock Origi for the ineffectve Roberto Firmino; such concern proved justified as Sevilla immediately went 3-1 ahead with a controversial goal from Coke.
Liverpool raged that he had been offside in the build-up and that the linesman but flagged but referee Eriksson awarded the goal because the ball had pinballed back to the Sevilla captain off Liverpool’s own defenders.
This was not in the script but the truth was that Sevilla had not only been playing the better football throughout the second half but had been defending better.
The longer the game ran on the more untidy and unhappy Liverpool looked with the substititions making matters worse, rather than better. The vast majority of Liverpool’s own fans could not even find it in them to wait and offer their team any consoling cheers.
Liverpool: Mignolet – Clyne, Lovren, Toure (Benteke 82), Moreno – Milner, Can – Lallana (Allen 72), Firmino (Origi 68), Coutinho – Sturridge. Manager: Klopp.
Sevilla: Soria – Mariano Ferreira, Rami (Kolodziejczak 81), Daniel Carrico, Escudero – Krychowiak, N’Zonzi – Coke, Banega (Cristoforo 90), Vitolo – Gameiro (Iborra 88). Coach: Emery.