SEVILLA RETAIN THE EUROPA LEAGUE WHILE MAGIC MESSI DAZZLES THE COPA DEL REY
THE SPANISH WEEK IN REVIEW
Two cup finals, two Spanish winners.
Sevilla won the Europa League in style and Barcelona won the Copa del Rey with more devastating, winning football, topped by yet another wonder goal from Lionel Messi.
With the King in attendance, the Spanish national Agen Dominoqq anthem was booed however by separatist-minded supporters filling the Camp Nou on Saturday. Spain briefly seemed the sum of its parts. So perhaps it was Andalucia who won the Europa League, while Catalonia beat the Basque Country for the Copa del Rey.
SEVILLA WIN IN WARSAW
Sevilla got the ball rolling by defending their Europa League trophy in Warsaw, defeating Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-2 on aggregate. It was an open and entertaining encounter, with four first-half goals, but the better team won in the end.
The Spaniards enjoyed 58% of the ball overall and outshot the Ukrainians 18 to 12 but overall looked to have the edge in technique and consistent quality.
Carlos Bacca was the star of the night, scoring twice to turn the tie after Dnipro had taken a seventh-minute lead through a Nikola Kalinic header, although local boy Grzegorz Krychowiak will have relished drawing Sevilla level just short of the half hour in front of 45,000 in Poland’s national stadium.
Bacca’s second, as the ball fell loose to him on the edge of the box, was a clinical strike worthy of a world-class finisher.
It was probably the Colombian’s finest hour, as at national team level he has lived in the shadow of Radamel Falcao, Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez. After his matchwinner he donned his country’s tricolour to remind them he is in red hot form with the Copa America approaching, and was shown a yellow card.
Bacca netted seven goals throughout the campaign and was named by UEFA’s Technical Study group in the 18-man squad of the tournament alongside teammates Sergio Rico, Timothee Kolodziejczak, Aleix Vidal, Ever Banega, Krychowiak and Stephane Mbia.
Jose Antonio Reyes had buzzed around effectively for about an hour in the final, a fitting swansong if indeed he is on his way out of the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Sevilla had played fourteen Europa League games before the final, an itinerary which had taken them to Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands (where they lost their only game, 2-0 to Feyenoord), Russia and across Spain to beat Villareal in the Round of 16.
The team played refreshing attacking football and, realistically unable to win La Liga, rightly enjoyed their moment in the sun in Warsaw. Sevilla have passionate fans and the city came to a standstill to salute their heroes’ return on Thursday.
Manager Unai Emery dedicated the prize to his father, who had passed away two weeks beforehand, and Sevilla player Antonio Puerta who died in 2007.
“Life brings bitter moments so you must experience joy fully when it is there,” he mused.
It was all good news for Spanish football.
Sevilla broke the record for UEFA Cup/Europa League finals with four victories, one more than Inter, Juventus and Liverpool.
They also won a place in the Autumn’s European Supercup match and go straight into the 2015/’16 Champions League group stages, taking La Liga’s representation to five teams and keeping Spain’s coefficient at the top of Europe.
VILLAR THE VILLAIN
Sevilla’s success coincided with the FBI raid on FIFA’s Congress in Switzerland, providing a contrast between football as a passionate, theatrical entertainment enjoyed by supporters in stadia, and the dishonest, shifty and downright criminal empire run by Sepp Blatter from Zurich.
FIFA Vice President and Spanish F.A. chief Angel Maria Villar was not among those arrested, and remains one of embattled President Blatter’s staunchest loyalists. He certainly voted for his reelection and must feel aghast at UEFA now making clear water between them and Blatter and entertaining a World Cup boycott.
He is one of those named however in the probe into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes and appears to be on a sticky wicket after famously boasting of trying to buy the 2018 tournament for Spain and Portugal as part of a mutual support deal with Qatar.
“All the fish are sold,” his legendary quote, may yet come back to haunt him. He was of course left with egg on his face as Russia romped home for 2018 but like the rest of FIFA’s old guard, has never dreamed of stepping down and continues to defend the organisation in absurd terms:
“FIFA is a clean institution,” claimed Villar this week, ludicrously. “Enough slander. This process is clean, whatever they say.”
Villar gained backing this week from national team coach Vicente del Bosque, who claimed, “I would put my hand in the fire for the president because I know he has football’s best interests at heart.”
The Basque-born Villar has plenty of critics however and once more raised eyebrows when he swanned in 45 minutes late for the traditional pre-match meal for directors at the Copa del Rey final in Barcelona.
Last season he said he was too busy to attend the title decider between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, which meant Atletico did not receive their trophy until the autumn, and this year failed to show up at the LFP (Spanish League)’s extraordinary general meetings following the death of a Deportivo La Coruna fan in Madrid and the threatened strike over TV rights last month.
The LFP Chairman Javier Tebas accused Villar of “living in medieval times, deciding everything from his castle.”
Villar looked suitably relaxed at the Copa del Rey final but as a former Athletic Bilbao player, cannot have enjoyed seeing them outclassed by Barcelona.