Sevilla confirmed their place in the European football history books, winning the Europa League for the third successive year by beating Liverpool 3-1 at St Jakob Park in Switzerland.
The first five minutes was a cagey affair, with neither side looking to take any risks, resulting in long balls by both sides aimed towards their respective strikers – Daniel Sturridge and Kevin Gameiro.
The first real chance of the evening fell to Liverpool in the 8th minute, as Emre Can latched onto an infield pass and struck a side-footed effort from 25 yards, but it was comfortably pushed away by Sevilla goalkeeper David Soria.
Soria then had centre-back Daniel Carrico to thank after he was able to hook away a header back across goal from Sturridge with Roberto Firmino ready to tap-in.
The Brazilian then felt that he should have had a penalty, but referee Jonas Eriksson waved away his appeals for handball against Carrico.
Adam Lallana began to find pockets of space in behind Sevilla’s holding midfielder pair of Steven N’Zonzi and Grzegorz Krychowiak, sending a reverse pass through to Sturridge to get a shot away on 25 minutes, but Soria came out smartly to smother the danger.
The holders’ first half chance arrived from a corner, but Gameiro was unable to direct a brilliant overhead kick on target, seeing it go wide of Simon Mignolet’s left upright.
The opening goal of the night was certainly worthy of the occasion and gave Liverpool the lead
Lallana passed in-field to Philippe Coutinho, who then proceeded to flick the ball on to Sturridge on the left hand side of the box. The England striker then hit a wonderful shot with the outside of his left foot into the far right corner, giving Soria no chance 35 minutes in.
The Reds could have been 2-0 up four minutes later, but Dejan Lovren’s celebrations were cut short after his header from a James Milner corner was ruled out because of Sturridge interfering with Soria.
Then, right on the stroke of half time, Sturridge despite his best efforts could not connect with Nathaniel Clyne’s low cross from the right, with the ball squirting harmlessly wide in the end.
Unai Emery has a reputation across Europe for being one of the best tacticians in the game, and his team talk at the interval certainly inspired his players as Sevilla were unrecognisable from their poor performance in the first half.
17 seconds after the restart, Gameiro levelled the game. It all came from brilliant work down the right hand side by Brazilian right back Mariano, who nut-megged Alberto Moreno before delivering a wonderful low cross into the box for Gameiro to score his eighth goal of the competition.
He could have had a second two minutes later, but Kolo Toure’s brilliant last-ditch sliding challenge was just enough to stop him in his tracks.
The France international possibly could have finished the game with a hat-trick after N’Zonzi was able to flick on Sergio Escudero’s long throw, but he scuffed his shot and Mignolet was able to force it over the bar with his feet in the 60th minute.
A moment of brilliance then put Sevilla in the driving seat going into the last 25 minutes. Vitolo exchanged passes with Ever Banega in the Liverpool half, before nut-megging Lovren and rolling the ball on to the captain Coke, who without breaking stride side-footed into the bottom right corner from 20 yards.
The game was then put beyond doubt again with a strike from Coke in the 70th minute. Vitolo drove into the box before trying to feed Gameiro, but his pass deflected off first Clyne and then Coutinho’s boot, falling eventually to the Spanish winger, who smashed the ball past Mignolet from six yards.
Jurgen Klopp attempted to change the tide of the game by bringing on Divock Origi and Christian Benteke, but the final chance the Reds had fell to Coutinho on 80 minutes. The tricky Brazilian managed to work the ball onto his left foot but struck over from 20 yards.
The result confirms Sevilla’s place in the group stage of next year’s Champions League, along with the prestige of winning the Europa League three years in a row, which is a real credit to both Unai Emery and his talented squad of players, while Liverpool will be without European football next term after this loss coupled with their eighth-placed finish in the Premier League.