Sevilla floors Liverpool to clinch Europa League
Sevilla captain Coke lifted the trophy at Basel’s St Jakob-Park having been the architect of their heroics, scoring twice to leave Liverpool gasping on the canvas after Kevin Gameiro had cancelled out Daniel Sturridge’s opener.
It was a remarkable turnaround after Liverpool had dominated the first half so completely that Juergen Klopp’s side should have been home and dry, but they failed to inflict further damage when their opponents were reeling.
Unai Emery’s team hit back with three goals in 25 minutes, the first coming just 17 seconds after the interval, to claim the trophy for the fifth time in 11 seasons and become the first side in 40 years to win three consecutive European competitions.
“At Sevilla we love this competition and we love it so much and we want it so much that we won it,” Emery said. “It is our competition and we underlined that once again.”
For Liverpool and Klopp, who has now suffered successive final defeats in his seven months in charge after February’s League Cup disappointment, it was a dispiriting occasion.
His team’s hopes of Champions League qualification were dashed, leaving Liverpool to face up to a season with no European competition.
“The players are still young,” Klopp told reporters. “We will use this experience today and someday everyone will say Basel was a decisive moment for Liverpool FC.”
It had looked, however, like being an entirely different outcome at the interval.
The opening goal arrived after 35 minutes and was a genuine moment of class from Sturridge, who received the ball on the left edge of the area before expertly picking his spot with a pin-point curling finish off the outside of his left boot.
The England striker had already had a header hacked off the line and Liverpool had two vociferous penalty appeals for handball waved away by referee Jonas Eriksson as they turned the screw on their opponents.
The halftime whistle came to Sevilla’s rescue, however, allowing them to regroup before clawing themselves off the ropes with an immediate sucker punch.
Seconds had elapsed before Liverpool left back Alberto Moreno, whose mistakes have cost his side on a number of occasions this season, darted hopelessly into a tackle on Mariano Ferreira, who skipped past him and crossed for Gameiro to side-foot into an empty net.
Then it was Liverpool’s turn to hit the panic button as Gameiro wasted two further chances before Coke added a second after 63 minutes.
Vitolo danced through a series of Liverpool tackles before the ball landed invitingly for the Sevilla skipper to curl his finish into the corner.
The final nail in Liverpool’s coffin sparked fury on the touchline as Coke kept his cool to bury his second goal beneath Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet, only for the linesman to briefly raise his flag before putting it down again.
After some pushing and shoving the goal stood, leaving Liverpool with a mountain to climb.
Having retreated so far into their shell, however, they were incapable of rising above base camp.