Sevilla lifted the Europa League trophy for a historic fourth time on Wednesda after seeing off a stubborn Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, 3-2, in Warsaw. It was an entertaining game between two well-matched sides, but the Spaniards had just enough quality in front of goal to defend the title they claimed last year.
The tone for a lively first half was set after just seven minutes, when a simple long ball out of the Dnipro defense was flicked into the path of winger Matheus, whose chipped cross was powered home by striker Nikola Kalinić. Given Dnipro's impressive defensive record at this tournament so far, it was just about the worst start Sevilla could have made. They had given the underdogs something to hang onto.
However, as the clock ticked on, Sevilla began to assert themselves on the match. Winger Vitolo had a great chance blocked on the edge of the area after 11 minutes, and midway through the first period a Grzegorz Krychowiak header was palmed away by Dnipro goalkeeper Denys Boyko.
It took them until just short of the half hour mark, but eventually Sevilla produced an equalizer. A short corner and subsequent cross caused havoc in the Dnipro box, with Krychowiak capitalizing by drilling the ball home from inside the crowded penalty area.
Within five minutes, the Spaniards had the lead. A perfect José Reyes through ball was met by a defense-splitting Carlos Bacca run, leaving the Colombian forward with the relatively simple task of rounding the goalkeeper and slotting home. The game had been completely turned on its head.
However, Dnipro were undeterred, and enjoyed a resurgence toward the end of the half. A Yevhen Konoplyanka rocket required a touch from Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico, before his teammate Ruslan Rotan equalized with a deft free kick in the final minutes of the regulation 45. It was the best possible end to a brilliant opening period, and set up a grandstand second half.
Dnipro were the more impressive of the two sides after the restart, and though they failed to seriously test Rico, they successfully denied Sevilla the space to test their own goalkeeper. As in the first half, the Spaniards were largely restricted to threatening on set-pieces.
But, unfortunately for Dnipro, football is a cruel game, and it showed as much just inside the final 20 minutes. A poor clearance offered Vitolo the chance to prod the ball straight through a crowded defense and into the penalty area. The first to react was Bacca, who pounced in the box and coolly prodded the ball beyond Boyko to seal his brace.
He nearly had a hat-trick on a deep cross from the right with just over 10 minutes left, though his header was parried over the bar by from point-blank range. Sadly for Boyko, his save was all in vain, with Sevilla running out 3-2 winners.
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk: Boyko; Matos, Cheberyachko, Douglas, Fedetskiy; Fedorchuk (Bezus 68'), Kankava (Shakhov 86'); Konoplyanka, Rotan, Matheus; Kalinić (Seleznyov 78').
Goals: Kalinić (7'), Rotan (44').
Sevilla: Rico; Trémoulinas, Kolodziejczak, Carriço, Vidal; Krychowiak, Mbia; Vitolo, Banega (Iborra 87'), Reyes (Coke 59'); Bacca (Gameiro 82').
Goals: Krychowiak (28'), Bacca (31'. 73').
1. Carlos Bacca is good
Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca's brace in Wednesday's match was the icing on the cake after an excellent domestic season. The 28-year-old Colombian led the line excellently against a strong Dnipro defense, with his textbook movement and clinical finishing contributing to his side's win.
2. Dnipro stayed cool under pressure
Dnipro's defining features throughout this tournament have been their impressive defensive organization and remarkable ability to never say die (remember they were bottom of their group heading into the final match day). In this match, they exhibited both. They proved to be stubborn opponents against an individually superior Sevilla through their exceptional industry across the field, and recovered from the blow of conceding twice in quick succession in the first half. They seem to have the perfect mix of tactical intelligence and a steely mental fortitude, and they were a credit to themselves in their first European final.
3. Someone still hasn't signed Yevhen Konoplyanka
His contract expires next month, folks! This match showed that the tricky Ukrainian winger is a tidy player indeed, with his close control and incredible rocket of a shot causing Sevilla problems throughout. Expect him to be signing for a bigger club any time soon.