An infinite Final. It took more than 140 minutes to separate Roma and Sevilla in the final showdown of the Europa League. But then, once again, the fate favored the second European competition specialists – José Luis Mendilibar’s Sevilla, who took the trophy home for the seventh time out of seven Finals played.
The Spanish needed a penalty lottery to ultimately prevail in a match that will go down in history as one of the longest ever played and for the bizarre occurrence that the decisive penalty had to be retaken as the VAR caught the Roma goalie Rui Patricio moving before Gael Montiel’s last shot.
And so, José Mourinho and Roma ended in tears, especially since the Giallorossi produced a brilliant first half, which climaxed with Paulo Dybala’s opener. But Sevilla drew level early after the restart, taking advantage of a Gianluca Mancini own goal. From then on, the game turned into a bullfight that the referee struggled to keep under control.
Poor Mancini also missed one of the Roma penalties, with Roger Ibanez hitting the post from his attempt. Rui Patricio kept the Wolves afloat as he saved from Montiel, but the VAR spoiled the party and the Argentine World Champion made no mistake the second time. It was over.
The expected game pattern was set to be Sevilla pressing high and Roma waiting for them and hoping to hit them on the counter. However, it was the Giallorossi to take the initiative from the get-go.
When they recorded the first shot on target, a Leonardo Spinazzola curl from a Zeki Celik pass that was parried back by Yassine Bounou, it did not come as a surprise.
Sevilla risked a lot on 32 minutes when defender Nemanja Gudelj hit Tammy Abraham’s head in the box as he attempted to clear the ball but a VAR check disallowed the penalty. Just two minutes later, however, Mourinho’s side reaped the rewards of their first-half aggressive approach.
Gianluca Mancini was the provider in the occasion as he recovered the ball at midfield and picked Dybala with a phenomenal filtering pass, putting La Joya in condition to beat Bounou with a clinical left-foot touch.
Sevilla would have gone for the breather with only a Fernando header, which went off target, if it wasn’t for the eternal Ivan Rakitic’s brutal screamer from out of the box that made Rui Patricio’s left post rattle, just before the referee would blow for half time. If it wasn’t clear, the Europa League kings were still alive.
Which became clear on 54 minutes as a cross from Jesús Navas from the right side was pushed by Gianluca Mancini back into his own net, making it 1-1. It happened after coach Mendilibar had sent in two Serie A acquaintances after the break – Suso and the former Roma man Erik Lamela.
The game got nervous and fragmented by multiple fouls on both sides. Roma had the better chance in the second half when Pellegrini whipped a free kick in the middle of the box, but Abraham’s back heel conversion attempt was pushed back by Bounou. Then, Roger Ibanez missed the target from the center of the box.
The VAR had much work to do in the final stages of the regular times. Sevilla’s penalty claims for an alleged foul on Lucas Ocampos were dismissed but Fernando’s handball in his own box was also not deemed worth of a penalty. Rakitic was spared his marching orders when he fouled Pellegrini with already a yellow card to his account.
All in all, the refereeing squad didn’t seem in one of their best nights and that became even more evident when the ref failed to spot Bounou’s decisive intervention from an Andrea Belotti deflected free kick and did not allow Roma a corner. That was the last chance in the game as, at full time, the two teams could not be separated.
The extra times were basically not played. Injuries, fouls, exhaustion, as well as multiple quarrels between the two clubs’ staff prevented any real action to unfold on the pitch. A penalty shootout was the obvious consequence of such a poor show.
Sevilla found the back of the net from all their four attempts, while Mancini and Ibanez’s mistakes condemned the laudable Roma fans – who kept chanting and roaring until the end – to a night of tears and regrets.