FOOTBALL: Bela Guttmann’s ‘final curse’ continues to haunt the Portuguese side in Europe
Sevilla defended doggedly in a 0-0 draw before beating Benfica 4-2 on penalties to win the Europa League for the third time on Wednesday as the ‘final curse’ of Bela Guttmann continued to haunt the Portuguese side.
Beaten 2-1 at the death by Chelsea in the same game 12 months ago, Benfica slumped to its eighth successive European final loss, putting a dampener on what had been a triumphant season.
Benfica had the best of the opening 90 minutes but failed to take its chances and the confidence seemed to ooze away from them in extra-time.
The writing appeared to be on the wall when Sevilla won the toss before the penalties and chose the end in front of its fans.
Paraguay striker Oscar Cardozo, who has had an unhappy season and missed a penalty for his country in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal against Spain, took a stuttering run-up before Benfica’s second penalty was saved by Beto.
Beto also stopped Benfica’s next spot-kick, a half-hearted Rodrigo effort, although the Sevilla goalkeeper appeared to move well off his line on each occasion.
Kevin Gameiro then fired home Sevilla’s fourth to clinch its third Europe League/UEFA Cup title.
“In the end, they (Benfica) were pushing forward more as we were tired and all the games that we have played this season took their toll,” Sevilla coach Unai Emery said.
“However, we have learnt to fight and cope with the difficult moments and we came out on top.”
Benfica’s losing run is often referred to as the “curse of Bela Guttmann”, the Hungarian coach who led it to successive European Cups in 1961 and 1962.
On leaving the club in acrimonious circumstances, Guttmann said it would never win another European title without him.
“We were better but in football, the best team doesn’t always in,” Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said.
“We had the more chances over 120 minutes but we didn’t take them.”
Sevilla, playing its 19th match in this season’s competition, gave Benfica an early scare when Vitolo cut the ball back to Carlos Bacca and Guilherme Siqueira dived in to intercept.
Benfica lost midfielder Miralem Sulejmani who injured his shoulder in a crunching tackle by Alberto Moreno.
Although the two sets of fans made a wall of noise each end, there were nearly 6,000 empty seats at the Juventus stadium, with an official attendance of just over 33,000.
The first half was often scrappy and niggly as Sevilla managed to blunt Benfica’s attacking edge.
Beto was called into action twice in quick succession before the break, first to stop an Maxi Pereira lob after the Uruguayan got in behind the Sevilla defence and then to block a Rodrigo effort after he burst down the right.
Benfica, which has won the Portuguese League and League Cup and will attempt to complete a domestic treble on Sunday in the Cup final, should have gone ahead soon after the re-start.
Pereira set up Lima who had a shot blocked off the line by Nicolas Pareja was also blocked.
Pereira then set up another chance for Lima when he got in behind the Sevilla defence and this time the Brazilian forward completely missed his kick.
Beto does well
Lima nearly grabbed a late winner with a dipping long-range effort which Beto just managed to turn over the crossbar.
Benfica failed to carry the momentum into extra-time and Sevilla nearly went ahead when Ivan Rakitic sent Bacca clear down the right but the Colombian fired his just over the bar.
Gameiro fired into the side-netting in the second half of extra-time after another break down the right. By that time, fatigue had crept in, the pace had slowed and the game was littered with mistakes.
The result: Benfica 0 drew with Sevilla 0 (Sevilla won 4-2 on penalties).