Recap: Sevilla claimed the Europa League title for a third successive season after producing a superb second-half performance to beat Liverpool 3-1 in Basel. Liverpool had seriously threatened Sevilla’s dominance of the competition when taking a deserved 1-0 lead into halftime thanks to a brilliant strike from Daniel Sturridge. But the Spanish side came storming back after the interval, simply overwhelming Liverpool and in the end claiming a comfortable victory thanks to an eighth goal in this season’s competition from Kevin Gameiro and two from captain Coke.
It is a remarkable achievement for Sevilla, who have now won Europe’s secondary competition five times, more than any other team, and all within the last 11 years. That they have done so while consistently having to sell their top players and rebuild, makes the achievement all the more impressive. There has been signifiant overhaul enforced in just the past two years. yet Sevilla become the first team since Bayern Munich 40 years ago to win a European competition three times in succession.
Adding to the roll of honors, Unai Emery becomes the first three-time winning coach of the Europa League, or the UEFA Cup as it was in its former incarnation. And the Sevilla boss deserves plenty of credit for this triumph, inspiring a dramatic turnaround in the second half.
Certainly the final scenario was hard to envisage at the interval. Both sides had started slowly, Liverpool especially, but Jurgen Klopp’s side came on strong in the final 15 minutes of the opening half to seize control.
While they didn’t create many chances, Sturridge conjured something out of little to break the deadlock on 35 minutes with a memorable strike into the corner with the outside of his left foot. At the end of the period, Liverpool had reason to think that they should have had more reward for their efforts. In particular, there will be focus on three handball appeals in the Sevilla box that were denied. At least two of them looked worthy of penalties and Klopp appeared to think the same, going over the remonstrate with the officials after the final whistle.
Still, Liverpool will be unable to hide from the fact that they were decidedly second best after the restart. It took just 17 seconds for Gameiro to cancel out Liverpool’s advantage, his movement in the box allowing him to a simple finish from Vitolo’s cross after a double-error from former Sevilla man Alberto Moreno.
It was a blow from which Liverpool never recovered. Sevilla played with much more intensity, putting Liverpool under far greater pressure and repeatedly looking to get the constantly moving Gameiro involved.
A second goal looked only a matter of time and it duly arrived just past the hour mark. Coke grabbed his first ever Europa League goal, curling precisely into the corner of the net after a sublime passing exchange involving Vitolo and Ever Banega. Soon it was 3-1 and effectively game over, a deflection in the Liverpool box, finding its way to Coke again, who blasted in off Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool had performed stirring comebacks against Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal in previous rounds, but there was never any suggestion that would do similar in the final. Sevilla ran out deserved winners, to take not just the Europa League trophy, but a place in the Champions League. In contrast, Liverpool will have do without European football next season.
FULLTIME: Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla
Sevilla make history, becoming the first side to win a European trophy for three successive seasons since Bayern Munich 40 years ago and the first three-time winners of the Europa League. And it was quite the performance in the second half, simply overwhelming Liverpool and scoring three goals without reply. Liverpool ended the first half well on top and deserving of their lead. They will feel aggrieved, too, at having three strong appeals for a handballs in the Sevilla box turned away in the opening period. But Jurgen Klopp's men faded horribly in the second half and simply had no answer for a Sevilla side whose remarkable domination of Europe's secondary competition goes on.
93 mins: Sevilla eat up more of the clock, replacing Banega with Sebasitan Cristoforo.
92 mins: As good as Sevilla have been in this second half, Liverpool have faded terribly. Never any sense that they could recover after falling behind.
90 mins: Four minutes of injury time to Liverpool to score twice.
89 mins: Gameiro exits the field to rapturous applause from the Sevilla fans. After scoring his 29th goal of the season to get his team level, he deserves it. He's been integral to Sevilla's turn around in this second half. Vicente Iborra is on in his place.
86 mins: It really should be 4-1 to Sevilla. Steven N'Zonzi was free down the right and found Gameiro in the middle but the scorer of the first Sevilla goal failed to take the ball into his path.
84 mins: Liverpool are now, as expected, going more direct to Benteke, but Sevilla continue to look comfortable. Even by Liverpool's standards, it will take something for spectacular to turn this final around now.
82 mins: Klopp is now going for broke with less than 10 minutes remaining, bringing on Belgium striker Christian Benteke in place of center-back Toure.
79 mins: Soria looks very shaky coming for a cross, but Origi can't get up high enough to get his head onto it. Liverpool are trying to get something going, but little happening so far, with Philippe Coutinho striking over from 20 yards on his left foot.
78 mins: After some confusion and considerable delay, Sevilla center-back Adil Rami has limped off, to be replaced by Timothee Kolodzjejczak.
76 mins: Liverpool scored twice in the final 13 minutes to get through against Borussia Dortmund and they're going to need to do the same again if they are to lift the Europa League anc claim a precious place in the Champions League.
And Coke's second goal to make it 3-1 to Sevilla:
73 mins: Liverpool make their second change, bringing on Joe Allen for Lallana.
A look at Coke's first goal:
GOAL! Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla (Coke, 70)
It's all gone wrong spectacularly from Liverpool in the second half and Sevilla are on fire. Coke gets his second goal, this time after a deflection off a Liverpool player sneaks past Moreno and falls to the Sevilla captain, who drills the ball in off of Mignolet. Liverpool appeal for an offside, but the ball came off one of their own players.
69 mins: Klopp does go quickly to his bench, replacing Firmino with Divock Origi, who returns from an ankle injury.
67 mins: Liverpool came from behind against both Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal in previous rounds so they shouldn't be daunted by the challenge in front of them now. But this isn't Anfield, and it's now a final with everything on the line.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-2 Sevilla (Coke, 64)
Well Liverpool can't claim it wasn't coming. Sevilla have dominated the second half and they're now in front thanks to a superb team goal. Some beautifully quick interplay involving Vitolo and Banega eventually led the ball to Coke on the edge of the box, who found the far bottom corner of the net with a precise curling strike. Can Liverpool respond? Surely Klopp will be turning to his bench soon.
62 mins: Sevilla have really upped their intensity in the second half, and at the moment Liverpool can't cope with the combination of energy and quality from their Spanish opponents.
60 mins: Another great chance for Gameiro, whose constant motion in the box is really causing Liverpool havoc. It was a simple long throw into the box that was flicked on and Gameiro had peeled away to find himself free in front of goal. Only a fine block from Mignolet keeps Liverpool level.
57 mins: And quickly Ever Banega joins Vitolo in the referee's book after brining down Kolo Toure after the ball had gone.
56 mins: Vitolo becomes the second player to earn a yellow card in this final, earning a caution for cynically bringing down Lallana as the Liverpool midfielder broke forward.
52 mins: Isolated in the first half, Gameiro has been far more involved at the start of the second. Suddenly Sevilla are trying to find their top-scorer far quicker and he is posing a major threat in behind the Liverpool back line. Important that Liverpool settle this down now.
Here's that Gameiro goal, straight from the second half kickoff.
48 mins: Almost a total disaster for Liverpool at the start of the second half. Gameiro this time breaks free in behind the Liverpool defense and it took a fine saving challenge from Kolo Toure to deny the French striker what could have been a second goal in three minutes.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-1 Sevilla (Gameiro, 46)
Just 17 seconds into the second half and all of Liverpool's efforts late in the first period are wiped out. It was a poor defensive header from Alberto Moreno that gifted his former team the chance, allowing Mariano to surge into the box down the right, through the legs of Moreno, and fire the ball across the face of goal where Gameiro was on hand for a simple finish.
Second Half Kickoff: Sevilla get the Europa League final back underway, needing to fight back if they are to make history with a third successive Europa League triumph.
HALFTIME: Liverpool 1-0 Sevilla
The game took a while to get going, with Liverpool particularly slow out of the blocks, but the Merseysiders, operating with a smart, measured approach, came on far the stronger in the final 15 minutes of the opening period. And Klopp's side are well worth the lead given to them by a superbly inventive strike from Daniel Sturridge. There may, though, be disappointment that they are not further in front, especailly after having three penalty appeals for handball declined, at least two of which should surely have been given. Still, there's much now to do for Sevilla to hang onto their Europa League crown.
45 mins: Liverpool go close again. Clyne puts in a superb elivery from the right that somehow evaded a trip of his teammates in the middle.
40 mins: Another appeal for a handball from Liverpool. And this may be the clearest one yet. Sevilla midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak reached down and prevented a Sturridge pass from getting past him with his hand, but again no penalty is given. If Liverpool don't go on and lift the trophy, there will be some angry words said about what are now three penalty appeals rejected.
39 mins: Liverpool think they have a second goal as Dejan Loren heads a corner into the net, but Sturridge was in an offside position and, crucially, made a play for the ball in front of the goalkeeper. Correct decision from the officials. Sevilla are on the ropes now, though. Can Liverpool get a second before halftime?
Here's a look at that majestic Sturridge goal:
GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Sevilla (Sturridge, 35)
A moment of sheer brilliance from Daniel Sturridge to turn this cagey final in Liverpool's favor. Then didn't look much on as Sturridge ambled into the box with three players around him, but the England striker picked out the corner of the net with a sensational effort with the outside of his left foot. It's that sort of ability that made Liverpool fans so frustrated at the long periods he spent on the sidelines with injury.
32 mins: Sevilla with their first real effort on the Liverpool goal, and it's a spectacular one. In a packed penalty box, Gameiro rose with his back to goal and pulled off an overhead kick that went just wide of Mignolet's goal. The final is just showing signs of livening up now.
30 mins: Dejan Lovren becomes the first man to be booked in the final after a sliding challenge on Kevin Gameiro.
27 mins: Liverpool have a second appeal for a penalty. This time the ball comes off the hand of Adil Rami after Alberto Moreno tried to hook in a cross. It didn't appear deliberate, but again Sevilla are somewhat fortunate.
25 mins: Sturridge gets through for another chance at goal. This time Adam Lallana expertly slips him in behind down the right of the penalty area, but with Soria coming out to close an already tight angle, Sturridge could only strike against the Sevilla goalkeeper.
20 mins: Liverpool are pressing high at times, but it's a more cautious approach than might have been expected from Liverpool, more akin to the match away at Villarreal rather than the second leg at home.
16 mins: It's still Sevilla who are dictating the flow of this final early on. Liverpool haven't yet got a hold of the midfield, although they have had the most dangerous attacks.
12 mins: Sevilla are very lucky not to concede a penalty. Roberto Firmino looked to flick the ball past Daniel Carrico cutting into the box, but the ball struck the defender's arm as it was stretched away from his body. Firmino appealed strenuously for a penalty, but the referee failed to oblige.
11 mins: Daniel Sturridge comes the closest yet to breaking the deadlock. The striker gets up well to Clyne's deep cross and manages to head the baack across goal. But while he got it past Soria, a Sevilla defender was on hand to clear from under the crossbar.
10 mins: Sevilla win a free-kick in a dangerous position on the left, but Sergio Escudero's delivery is poor and Simon Mignoet makes a comfortable catch for his first involvement in the final. That should be a nice confidence booster for a goalkeeper often criticized for his ability to deal for crosses.
8 mins: Liverpool mount their first attack and it ends with a sloppy pass from Nathaniel Clyne being seized on by Emre Can, who hits a good side-foot shot from distance that Sevilla goalkeeper David Soria parries to safety.
5 mins: A poor defensive header from Kolo Toure gifts the ball to Coke in a dangerous position, but Liverpool manage to prevent the winger from getting in a strike at goal. Liverpool yet to really get going.
4 mins: Sevilla gave started the final on the front foot, but two free-kicks in Liverpool's half were comfortably seen off.
2 mins: Just a side note, which could become relevant at some stage: goal-line technology will be in use for hte first time in European competition in this final.
KICKOFF! Liverpool, in their traditional red, get the 2016 Europa League final underway.
2:43 p.m. EDT: The two sets of players are now out on the St. Jakob-Park pitch and the pre-match pageantry is coming to an end ahead of kickoff. There's a far greater presence of Liverpool fans in attendance than those from Sevilla, who didn't take up their full allocation of tickets.
1:45 p.m. EDT: Liverpool have opted for the same lineup that beat Villarreal 3-0 in the second leg of their semifinal. That means Divock Origi and Jordan Henderson only make the substitute’s bench after his recovery from injury. Sevilla make just one change from the second leg of their semifinal win, with Sergio Escudero replacing the injured left-back Benoit Tremoulinas.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 18, 2016
— Sevilla Fútbol Club (@SevillaFC) May 18, 2016
Preview: One of the great names of European competition will face off with a team that has a chance to make continental history in Wednesday’s Europa League final in Basel. Liverpool have lifted the European Cup on five occasions, a number bettered by only two clubs. Since the Merseysiders’ last triumph in 2005, though, their opponents at St. Jakob-Park on Wednesday, Sevilla, have won the Europa League, or its previous incarnation the UEFA Cup, four times. Victory against Liverpool will make the Spanish outfit the first ever five-time winners of the competition.
There are other records on the line, too. Having also won the Europa League the last two years, Sevilla can become the first side to win the competition three times in a row, while manager Unai Emery can take the honor of the first three-time winning coach.
But, while for both teams the lure of a major trophy is significant, it is arguably not as tantalizing as the other prize at stake. The winners not only get to lift one of the best-looking trophies in the game, but a place in the Champions League for next season.
Neither finalist managed to secure that lucrative reward through their league positions this season. Liverpool finished down in eighth in the Premier League in Jurgen Klopp’s first season in charge, while Sevilla could only finish seventh in La Liga, having failed to win a single game away from their Sánchez Pizjuán stadium.
Sevilla’s one win on the road in this season’s Europa League helped them to edge past Athletic Bilbao on penalties in the quarterfinals, before getting the better of Shakhtar Donetsk in the next round. Liverpool’s path to to Basel has been an engrossing one, having got past rivals Manchester United before producing a stirring fight back to overcome Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund. Another impressive comeback was required in the semifinals to overcome Villarreal.
Liverpool had to negotiate that tie without striker Divock Origi, but look set to have the Belgian back available for the final. Sevilla will be without Michael Krohn-Dehli and Benoit Tremoulinas.
Check back here from 2:45 p.m. EDT for live score updates and video highlights from the 2016 Europa League final.