Bacca’s brace helps Sevilla retain title

EUROPA SPECIALISTS::Sevilla had to come from behind after Dnipro got off to a dream start, scoring three times to lift the trophy for the fourth time in the past 10 years

AFP, WARSAW

Fri, May 29, 2015 - Page 18

Sevilla became the first side to win the UEFA Europa League four times with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk on Wednesday.

Carlos Bacca was the hero for the Spaniards as he struck the winner 17 minutes from time to ensure Sevilla also qualify for the group stages of next season’s UEFA Champions League.

It was also the second time they have retained the trophy with all four of their wins coming in the past 10 years.

Nikola Kalinic had given Dnipro a dream start to the Ukrainian side’s first ever European final as he headed home the opener after just seven minutes.

Grzegorz Krychowiak and Bacca turned the game in Sevilla’s favor, but Ruslan Rotan’s free-kick sent the sides in level once more at the break.

Bacca had the final say when he volleyed home, but his strike was nearly overshadowed when Dnipro’s Matheus collapsed two minutes from time just after he had been involved in a clash of heads. Thankfully, though, the Brazilian was able to move as he was stretchered off to a rousing reception from the whole stadium and both sets of players.

“We’ve had difficulties in all of the games,” Sevilla coach Unai Emery said. “At halftime we spoke about how this competition takes a lot out of you and that we had to wait for our moment. Given how hard we’ve worked, we deserve this. We have to enjoy it.”

Sevilla came into the game as big favorites and made the faster start with English referee Martin Atkinson turning down strong claims for a penalty when Jose Antonio Reyes went down under pressure from Rotan.

However, they were stunned moments later when Kalinic flicked on a long ball into the path of Matheus and then got on the end of his cross to head home the opener.

Sevilla responded like a side that have won the competition three times in the previous nine years as they laid siege to the Dnipro goal in search of an equalizer.

Vitolo saw his shot bravely blocked when well-placed on the edge of the penalty area, before Reyes flashed an effort just wide.

Krychowiak then forced goalkeeper Denys Boyko into a superb save with a downward header from Ever Banega’s corner.

However, the Poland international had to wait just four more minutes to register on home soil as he showed great composure to control Bacca’s layoff before firing low past Boyko.

Emery’s men had turned the game on its head three minutes later when Bacca controlled Reyes’ brilliant through-ball and rounded Boyko before slotting into an empty net.

Yet an incredibly open game turned again before the break.

Firstly, Sergio Rico produced a stunning save to turn Yevhen Konoplyanka’s dipping drive over the bar.

There was nothing Rico could do, though, when Rotan curled in a fantastic free-kick two minutes before halftime.

The second half started at a more pedestrian pace with Dnipro enjoying more of the ball than in the first period.

Slowly, though, Sevilla started to impose themselves as the half wore on and went close in quick succession from two corners as Krychowiak was crowded out, before Atkinson waved away more penalty appeals when Vitolo went down inside the penalty area.

The winner ultimately arrived when Bacca latched onto Vitolo’s pass and confidently dispatched the ball past Boyko for his 28th goal of the season.

Boyko prevented Bacca a memorable hat-trick as he got just enough on the ball to turn the Colombian’s header over moments later.