By Alan Feehely l @azulfeehely
An assured performance from Sevilla in Germany on Thursday evening saw them secure passage to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, defeating Italian side Roma 2-0. The Andalusians were the better team from the first whistle, playing with an unmatched degree of confidence and aggression. Goal scorers Sergio Reguilón and Youssef En-Nesyri will steal the headlines, but this was a consummate team performance.
Playing at an empty MSV Arena in Duisburg, Sevilla lined up in their settled 4-3-3. The usual suspects performed; Jules Koundé was formidable at centre-back, Éver Banega dominated the midfield and Lucas Ocampos was a constant menace in the final third. Roma, suffering from eleven days less rest than their Spanish opponents, just could not live with them and failed to create any chance of meaningful value.
Sevilla began on the front foot. Ocampos, full of confidence after an excellent maiden campaign in La Liga, cut inside from the left wing before drawing a good save from Roma’s Spanish goalkeeper Pau López. Soon after, Koundé, up for a corner-kick, saw his well-struck header strike the crossbar having beaten López by some distance.
They took a deserved lead in the 22nd minute. Banega played a cross-field ball out the left flank to find Reguilón, who had burst forward from full-back. He seared through the Roma defence before breaking inside the box and sliding the ball just under López, who should have done better. It was a moment of class from a player with plenty of options regarding his immediate future; he’s spent this season at Sevilla on loan from Real Madrid but has been linked with Premier League side Chelsea in recent days.
Indeed, Reguilon is one of a number of players whose future beyond this summer remains unclear while the likes of Diego Carlos and Ocampos are also set to be in high demand. Many fans will be keen to see how the squad of the five-time Europa League winners shapes up over the next few weeks in time for the new FIFA21 game. You can get FIFA21 at the lowest price on the market HERE.
Sevilla doubled their lead just before half-time. Joan Jordán, an industrious performer at the heart of the midfield, threaded through an inch-perfect ball to find Ocampos, who set off with speed down the right wing. He then squared for En-Nesyri, at the back post, to fire home and send Roma in at half-time with a mountain to climb.
The Italians began the second half in better fashion but couldn’t carve out an opening. Henrikh Mkhitaryan flashed an effort from outside the box inches wide of the far post, while Edin Džeko took a half-chance too quickly, sending it flying wide on the turn. One of their best opportunities had come in the first half, when Nicolò Zaniolo had a sight of goal but was blocked down by an alert Diego Carlos.
After this false dawn, Sevilla pressed for a third, and nearly found one on a couple of occasions. They had the ball in the net with 15 minutes left, when substitute Munir found Koundé at the back post only for the Frenchman’s accurate finish to be deemed offside after a VAR check. Then, Banega lifted a free-kick over the Roma wall only to see his effort strike the crossbar once again.
The tie ended on a sour note for Roma; Gianluca Mancini elbowed Luuk de Jong in the dying seconds and was initially awarded a yellow card by referee Björn Kuipers. Another VAR check, however, ruled that it was a red card offence – Mancini was given his marching orders as his team exited the Europa League in limp fashion. Sevilla, on the other hand, will be emboldened by the manner of their victory; a sixth European title is in their sights.