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Sevilla have won the Europa League after defeating Roma 4-1 on penalties.

A cagey first half was brought to life when Roma opened the scoring in the 35th minute with a cool finish from Paolo Dybala after a smart through ball from Gianluca Mancini.

Delight turned to woe for Mancini, however, as he turned a cross from Jesus Navas into his own net to make it 1-1 in the 55th minute.

Sevilla had a penalty decision overturned by VAR, but ultimately no side could break the deadlock in the 90 minutes of normal time.

Extra time was perhaps most notable for a further slew of yellow cards, taking the total on the night up to 13. No team was able to add the winning goal so penalties it was.

Sevilla emerged victorious after some last-kick drama when Gonzalo Montiel was given the chance to retake his penalty after Rui Patricio came off his line too early.

Seb Stafford-Bloor, Nick Miller and Thom Harris analyse the key talking points.

Sevilla make history

Irresistible force meets immovable object.

Jose Mourinho’s Roma versus six-time winners Sevilla was the Europa League final that was almost too inevitable to be true, but it meant that one modern-day magic spell had to be broken, at last.

The Spaniards have endured a wobbly domestic campaign, but a trip to Budapest for another European final seemed the most certain way for it to end. Every time they had reached the semi-finals of their favourite competition before tonight, they had gone on to win it, unbeaten in their last 28 Europa League games at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

Roma, on the other hand, had only ever won one European trophy before this final, but their illustrious manager had five. Leading the Italian side to the inaugural UEFA Conference League crown last year, Mourinho had a flawless record of his own to protect.

A coach with five continental cup-final wins five faced a team with six from six. Something had to give.

What followed, predictably, was an absorbing, attritional battle. Roma in their stubborn mid-block, springing into life if their opponents dared to drive through their core; Sevilla scrapping for the second balls and swinging the ball into the box — particularly from their dangerous right-hand side — at almost every opportunity they could.

In the end, a draw was probably the fairest result, but penalties were the cruellest way to have to settle the score.

Sevilla have done it again, but they more than met their match.

Thom Harris

Mourinho remains box office

The camera still loves Jose Mourinho.

Almost to the detriment of what is happening on the pitch, TV footage follows his every move: the cajoling, the complaining, the wailing, the wild celebrating, the pure distillation of Mourinho, 60 years old now and showing no signs of moderation.

It’s not quite that the result here didn’t matter to Mourinho: as a man very aware of his own legacy, another European trophy may not only have burnished his legend but could potentially be parlayed into a gig back at the very top table. Paris Saint-Germain will probably need a new manager; he is still said to be in the favour of Florentino Perez at Real Madrid.

But defeat would at least allow him to fall back onto his burning sense of personal injustice, the idea that the world is somehow out to sabotage Jose Mourinho. Even the other day, some two years after his departure from Tottenham, he once again brought up that his former employers sacked him before he could take charge of the League Cup final.

On around 80 minutes, just after Roma were denied a penalty for a handball that wasn’t, a member of Mourinho’s coaching staff was given a yellow card for complaining, and while that was happening, the man himself was waving seven fingers at referee Anthony Taylor. The seven injustices of Jose Mourinho.

Losing the trophy wasn’t his first choice, but the sense that he has been wronged somehow is a pretty close second.

Nick Miller

A refereeing masterclass

Roma’s antics in Leverkusen presumably prompted a conversation somewhere about what kind of final UEFA did and did not want. It also seemed from the beginning of this match that Anthony Taylor had no tolerance for anything extra-curricular and — most likely — those two things were not unrelated.

Taylor had an excellent game. He got the major decisions correct and when VAR was needed, it was applied quickly and efficiently. Most importantly, he was authoritative in the face of tedious hysteria that threatened to break out after nearly every decision. It’s rare to see an official be that demonstrative, but he allowed the final to become a watchable game and not simply a howling, moaning streetfight.

It is rare to say this, but Taylor was exactly the right official for the occasion. On reflection, his performance might also offer a lesson to other officials as to how game management can keep the less desirable elements of the sport at bay and allow supporters to get their money’s worth.

And then to complete his near-perfect performance, Taylor ordered the winning penalty to be re-taken after Rui Patricio was deemed to have stepped off his line when saving Gonzalo Montiel’s effort.

We don’t talk about refereeing masterclasses — and perhaps that shouldn’t be a thing — but you would imagine that Taylor’s control of this match might be shown on a few training videos in the future.

Seb Stafford-Bloor

If it’s not broken…

By modern standards, Jose Luis Mendilibar’s footballing philosophy is relatively, conceptually simple.

An energy-sapping high-press, hard running down the channels. Direct passing, crosses into the box and full-blooded commitment to winning those second balls. It’s a system built on conviction, persistence and self-belief that even Mendilibar himself admits that he hasn’t really tweaked in more than 30-plus years on the touchline.

As if a whole coaching career of evidence wasn’t enough, Sevilla’s electric 2-1 win over Juventus in the semi-finals was Mendi-ball in its purest form.

Statistically, their famous win over the 36-time Italian champions was their most intense pressing performance in over three years, allowing an average of just 5.4 opposition passes before snapping in for a challenge, while their relentless crossing from either side was a constant, chaotic threat.

There were no mind games before this final: Mourinho’s Roma knew exactly what to expect.

It was little coincidence, then, that Sevilla’s equaliser came from out wide. Having worked the play quickly out to Jesus Navas, the veteran full-back shifted the ball onto his right foot and crossed immediately, aiming for an area rather than a man.

One of 40 deliveries on the night, this was a story of persistence rather than precision.

For Mendilibar, this Europa League run is by far the brightest light of a humble career. He’s managed 15 Spanish teams over the years, most famously Eibar, who he miraculously kept in La Liga — and even guided to ninth — across seven seasons of frenetic, fearless football.

On the biggest stage of his career, the most important night of his life, the 62-year-old changed nothing. It was glorious to see.

Thom Harris

Extreme gamesmanship

Much of the pre-final discourse focused on how Roma progressed to it and the tone of their semi-final win over Bayer Leverkusen. Inevitably, there was an added focus on Jose Mourinho’s players this evening, particularly after they took the lead.

And they were largely as advertised. Roma were dramatic and demonstrative and, once that Dybala goal had opened the scoring, determined to break the flow of the game.

But it doesn’t matter — at least not in the sense that it’s Mourinho’s responsibility to hold his team to any kind of moral standard. In fact, you suspect that he rather enjoys the rage it provokes and that it only enhances the satisfaction he draws from big wins.

No, what really matters is how an opponent deals with it. Leverkusen’s biggest failure in the semi-final was an emotional one. They played extremely well until Roma got under their skin and stole away their attacking rhythm.

And that was precisely Mourinho’s intention: to focus the crowd upon the referee, to create a sense of injustice, and to make the occasion simmer in a way that suited his players. All the shenanigans in the technical area and the running battles with the fourth official were part of that: part of creating a destabilising hostility to neutralise an opponent’s strengths.

Sevilla’s responsibility this evening was to cope with that emotionally. That they did was one of the reasons why they found the equaliser that Leverkusen had fruitlessly searched for, and also explained the steady beat that they were able to maintain with the ball.

Perhaps that’s experience, because Sevilla know this tournament and this final better than anyone else, but it must also be an aspect of their preparation. They knew what to expect and they evidently knew how to respond healthily to it.

That they were the better side for much of it describes how they succeeded where Leverkusen failed. They remained clear-minded enough to be the dominant side in Budapest — and that is why they’ll be playing in the Champions League next season.

Seb Stafford-Bloor

A Europa League Final probably shouldn’t be viewed through the prism of other teams’ interests, but Bryan Gil’s future is going to be so interesting. He’s such a rocks or diamonds sort of player; when he has the ball, he either seems to be creating something or putting his own team at risk through overly earnest play.

There was a period during the first half that characterised that dilemma. Within the space of about a minute, the on-loan Tottenham winger had nipped in front of Bryan Cristante to retrieve the ball in the centre circle. It was smart and quick-minded and exactly what a coach would want in that situation. Immediately after though, as Sevilla tried to build a new phase in Roma’s half, he surrendered the ball with a cheap flick up the line.

Who knows whether that partly informed the decision to replace him at a half time, but it was another 45 minutes during which Gil was a zero-sum footballer — one with obvious talent and the ability to influence games, even at a high level (against Juventus), but whose place in the game is still really tricky to define.

He has something, but what that is and where and how it’s best used remains elusive.

Seb Stafford-Bloor

When you need a winning penalty taken, there’s only one man for it…

Penalties in shootouts don’t tend to be noted in player summaries, so if anyone in future years looks at Gonzalo Montiel’s record in the 2022-23 season, they will see a man who only scored one goal in La Liga, rarely started in the second half of the season, was essentially the second-choice right-back for a team that was in relegation trouble for most of the season.

But then, there will be a line in his Wikipedia profile that reminds you of what else he did. Of the two penalties he scored, the two winning penalties in, oh, just the World Cup final and the Europa League final.

In some ways, it was preferable for those of us who believe in a rational universe that his initial penalty was saved. It told us that the god of narrative isn’t all-powerful; that there isn’t some omnipotent string-puller deciding on everything, based on how pleasing it is to the storytellers.

But then Rui Patricio was seen to have moved early, that script-writing deity having intervened and told logic to take a seat. Montiel scored, showing that one of the brilliant things about football is that you don’t need to be great to achieve greatness.

Nick Miller

(Top photo: JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)



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