Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Coke nets brace as Sevilla sink Liverpool to win Europa League final in Basel


Coke netted twice, as Sevilla unleashed a stunning second-half fightback to beat Liverpool 3-1 and secure the Europa League trophy for a a third consecutive season.

1-0 up thanks to Daniel Sturridge's brilliant opener, with a Dejan Lovren headed chalked goal narrowly chalked off for offside and three penalty appeals turned down, Liverpool were absolutely dominant in the opening 45 minutes in Basel.

But Sevilla levelled within a minute of the restart through Kevin Gameiro's tap-in, then Coke fired the Spanish team to victory with two goals in seven minutes as Liverpool's defence capitulated.

It had all been going so well for the Premier League side, inspired by the mercurial Sturridge's clever movement and quicksilver anticipation.

Liverpool fans have a rather complicated relationship with the England striker, unarguably talented, but whose body language and reluctance to play through pain makes him a hard sell to supporters who idealise the heart-on-the-sleeve heroics of a Steven Gerrard or Luis Suarez.

But the Kop will put up with the pouts, the teapots and the grimaces to the bench if Sturridge can deliver goals like the one that lit up St-Jakob Park on 35 minutes.

Set up on the left-hand side of the Sevilla box by Philippe Coutinho's pass, Sturridge dropped the shoulder on right-back Mariano before curling a stunning, outside-of-the-boot shot past goalkeeper David Soria.

Liverpool fans in the stadium would have expected more of the same as Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson blew the whistle to start the second half, but incredibly the holders were back in the match just 17 seconds into the second period.

Alberto Moreno was twice at fault in the build-up, first with a weak clearance and then a weak tackle on Mariano that allowed the Brazilian to skip to the byline to cross low for Gameiro to prod home his 29th goal of the season.

Liverpool were rocking now, and could have conceded a second goal seconds later when Gameiro sprang off the shoulder of Lovren onto Ever Banega's pass, but the evergreen Kolo Toure brilliantly recovered to nick the ball away as the France international shaped to shoot.

And Gameiro, overlooked by national team boss Didier Deschamps for Euro 2016, could have netted a second on the hour mark, only to be denied by a point-blank Mignolet save.

But Sevilla were not to be denied, as Coke drilled home a brilliant goal on 65 minutes from the edge of the area following fine build-up play from Vitolo.

And the Sevilla skipper netted his second of the night on 70 minutes to wrap up the tie, beating Mignolet from close range following Coutinho's misplaced clearance.

It was a goal that prompted fury on the Liverpool bench after the assistant referee first raised, then lowered, his flag during the build-up, but in truth the the momentum had already long gone.

Sevilla's fifth Uefa Cup/Europa League success in 11 years sees the La Liga side qualify directly for next season's Champions League group stages, while Liverpool will have to put European football on the back burner for at least another year.

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