The triumph continued Sevilla’s dominance over Europe’s secondary competition, giving them their fourth trophy in the past 10 years and making them the most successful club in the history of the competition. And this victory will taste particularly sweet, as they become the first beneficiaries of UEFA’s decision to award the Europa League winners a place in the prestigious Champions League group stage. Having just missed out on qualification through La Liga in the final round of matches on Saturday, this was some reward for what has been a fine season under Unai Emery.
For Dnipro it is desperate disappointment after reaching their first ever European final, despite being forced to play away from their home stadium throughout the season because of its proximity to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Like Sevilla, Dnipro, look set to narrowly miss out on a place in the Champions League through their domestic performance.
A club that have never won the Ukrainian league title had made a surprise run through to the final, upsetting Napoli in the semifinals. And early on it looked like Dnipro’s season would have a sensational conclusion. Instead it was Sevilla and Bacca who were left celebrating in the Polish capital. The 28-year-old striker has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence after beginning his career in Colombia needing to work as a bus conductor on the side. And he now has 49 goals in two seasons for Sevilla, including 28 this term.
Sevilla’s success in the competition in recent years has been made all the more impressive by the fact they have repeatedly lost their leading players to wealthier rivals. And that may now happen once again with Bacca, while Emery, also in charge when Sevilla beat Benfica in the final 12 months ago, has been linked with taking over at some of Europe’s top clubs this summer.
But for now there is reason to celebrate and surely hope that a place in the money-spinning Champions League will help them keep hold of their key figures. Yet they were certainly made to work for their victory on Wednesday.
Expected by many to simply try to frustrate Sevilla, Dnipro played their part in making it a final to remember, especially in the opening stages. In the seventh minute it was Myron Markevych’s men who went in front, and in some style. From a long ball from Artem Fedetskiy’s, Kalanic flicked on and then made his way into the box where he met a perfectly delivered cross from Brazilian Matheus and headed down into the net. Matheus was a threat throughout, but was later involved in a scary moment when he collapsed minutes after clashing heads and had to be carried off on a stretcher.
After going behind, Sevilla were unflustered, and were immediately pushing for an equalizer. And while some superb last-ditch defending and goalkeeping initially kept Sevilla at bay, they pulled level in the 28th minute. Dnipro struggled to deal with crosses into the box all through the game and it was one such incident that led to Bacca touching back for Krychowiak to fire low past Denys Boyko. Three minutes later Sevilla were in front. Dnipro’s defense was left all at sea as former Arsenal star Jose Antonio Reyes was given space to turn and play a fine through ball that found Bacca running clear in behind . Without hesitation, he took it round the Dnipro goalkeeper and rolled the ball coolly into the net.
But Dnipro refused to go down easily and just a minute before the interval they clawed level. Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico, called up to the Spanish squad for the first time this week, was caught out, unable to get across to prevent Rotan’s curled free-kick from finding the net over the wall.
Again Sevilla were unperturbed. Dnipro were unable to pose the same attacking threat after the interval and Sevilla went increasingly close to netting a winner. Stephane Mbia and Krychowiak failed to find the net, before Bacca made his decisive contribution. From a clearance high into the Warsaw sky, Dnipro failed to clear the ball on the edge of their own box and Vitolo played a clever ball through for Bacca who nervelessly struck left-footed into the back of the net.
Bacca could have had a hat-trick as two more chances came close to being converted, but Dnipro couldn’t come to forcing extra-time before the final whistle blew to trigger Sevilla celebrations.