Bacca brace inspires Sevilla comebacks in Europa League final
Holders Sevilla responded to the early shock of a Dnipro opener from former Blackburn Rovers flop Nikola Kalinic and later being pegged back to retain the Europa League, with Colombia hitman Carlos Bacca’s brace inspiring them into next season’s Champions League.
Unai Emery emulated Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan predecessor Juande Ramos in keeping this trophy, known as the UEFA Cup when the Bathtubs took it in back-to-back campaigns in 2006 and 2007, to make it a record four continental crowns in nine years with a 3-2 victory in Warsaw.
Giant-killers Dnipro, who upset Inter Milan in the San Siro during the group stage and then knocked out Olympiakos, Ajax and Napoli en route to making the final, stunned Sevilla inside seven minutes.
Kalinic flicked on a long punt upfield from Ukraine defender Artem Fedetskiy and continued his run. Matheus crossed from the right and found the Croatian frontman again, who headed home.
The Bathtubs took their time, but responded with Grzegorz Krychowiak giving Dnipro a major warning when his header from Ever Banega’s left-wing corner needed dealing with by Denys Boyko. Moments later, and just before half an hour, the Poland anchorman once linked with Arsenal levelled.
Dnipro again failed to handle a cleverly worked Baenga corner, so Bacca nodded down to Krychowiak to lash in past Boyko, amid poor defending from Leo Matos, who was later stretchered off after collapsing with what looked like concussion. Less than four minutes later, Sevilla completed a swift turnaround.
Former Gunners forward Jose Antonio Reyes, on what may have been his last slipped a delicious through-ball over to Bacca, who timed his run superbly before racing clear and rounding Boyko.
An absorbing first-half continued with Dnipro responding in kind. Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka saw s sublime curling effort tipped over by Sevilla stopper Sergio Rico at full-stretch. Strikes like this are why the out-of-contract Dnipro man is a rumoured targed for Premier League clubs.
Dnipro went in at the break level when skipper Ruslan Rotan netted a cute free-kick, getting just enough on his effort to get the ball over the Bathtubs’ wall and inside the near post beyond Rico’s despairing dive.
Finely poised throughout the second-half, it was Ukraniain outfit Dnipro’s inability to clear their lines which ultimately proved to be their Achilles’ heel. Spain winger Vitolo squeezed a ball through to Bacca for him to blast in for his second 17 minutes from time to restore Sevilla’s lead when goal-side of Fedetskiy.
Bacca was later denied his hat-trick by Boyko with a superb reaction stop to a powerful header, but his otherwise lethal accuracy brought Emery and the Bathtubs another Europa League triumph.
With all-action operator Aleix Vidal looking a natural in his new role at right back and Barcelona in the market for someone like him, La Liga’s elite could circle for Sevilla stars.
Unlike last summer, however, when assists machine Ivan Rakitic and Federico Fazio were sold as the price for European success, getting into the Champions League for next term may make the Bathtubs better placed to keep hold of key personnel.