Sevilla 3-2 Inter Milan
The first half was barely midway through when acclaimed football write Henry Winter tweeted: ‘There’s a great game there in amongst the gamesmanship, arguing and players, coaches and subs trying to referee the game. Compelling viewing.’
He was right. Indeed, it was so frenetic and so compelling that the unsportsmanlike attitude of a few was just about the only negative of the 2020 Europa League Final.
Favourites Inter Milan, the first Italian side to reach the final since 1999, against Sevilla, the most successful team in the tournament’s history, winning all five of their UEFA Cup/Europa League finals.
And if Europa League highlights were what you were looking for, the fare on show in Cologne didn’t disappoint.
Highlights of the game
In fact, we had seen two goals within the opening 12 minutes.
First, Sevilla defender Diego Carlos dragged down the prolific Romelu Lukaku inside the box and Belgian’s all-time leading marksman made no mistake from the spot (why did Manchester United let him go!).
Then the combination which did for United in the semi-final paid dividends for Sevilla again as Jesus Navas crossed from the right and Luuk de Jong bulleted a header past Samir Handanovic at the near post, despite the goalkeeper’s best efforts.
The drama continued as Inter boss Antonio Conte, who has traditionally struggled in Cup competitions, was shown a yellow card for excessive protesting on the touchline after another penalty appeal was turned down.
Centre back Diego Godin then elbowed de Jong in the back as the Sevilla striker leapt for a high ball, yet still felt the need to show his anger when he was penalised.
Perhaps the Serie A runners-up were frustrated at being pegged back so quickly.
They had even more reason to be annoyed just after the half hour as Ever Banega produced another of his dangerous deliveries, floating the ball to the far post where de Jong leapt to guide a perfectly placed header across the face of goal past Handanovic.
If Sevilla were spirited, Inter were showing their character too and were back on level terms within two minutes.
Marcelo Brozovic was the provider this time and there was Godin, the former Atletico Madrid man, to head past Yassine Bono.
With the second half around 20 minutes old it was Bono, fresh from a fine game in the semi-final, who was the main man again as he denied Lukaku when clean through with an outstretched leg.
At this point the SBOBET Europa League betting odds were delicately poised.
Would it be Inter, bidding to end an eight-year run of only Spanish and English sides winning the competition and aiming to become the second most successful side in the competition’s history, or would it be Sevilla?
Julen Lopetegui, like Conte in his first season in charge at the club and managing in his first major European final (also like Conte), pledged his side would give everything in order to maintain their proud record in the competition.
And so it proved when the ever-green Banega curled the ball towards the far post, the free-kick was cleared as far as Carlos whose bicycle kick was heading wide until hitting Lukaku’s foot and diverting into his own net.
It was harsh on Lukaku who almost played a part in an immediate equaliser which saw substitute Alexis Sanchez see an effort cleared off the line by Jules Kounde in a goalmouth scramble.
But this was Sevilla’s day and a first piece of silverware for Lopetegui after spells as head coach of Rayo Vallecano, Porto and, in recent years, the Spanish national team and Real Madrid.
In their very first meeting, Sevilla had clinched a sixth Europa League title against opponents who had spent big but ended the campaign empty-handed.
This was their super six!
Sevilla are on their longest ever unbeaten run, with 12 wins and nine draws in their 21 games since February 9.
They have never lost a one-off knockout match in the UEFA Cup/Europa League history (played nine, won seven, drawn two – winning the two draws on penalties).
Lukaku has scored 34 goals this season in all competitions: the last Inter player to score as many goals in his first campaign for the Nerazzurri was Ronaldo in 1997/98.
Godin is only the sixth player to score in both a European Cup and a Europa League Final after Steven Gerrard, Hernan Crespo, Dmitri Alenichev, Allan Simonsen and Pedro.
Carlos has now conceded three penalties in as many games.
Only Liverpool (six between 1973 and 1984) and Real Madrid (all nine since 1985) have won more or as many consecutive European finals than Sevilla’s six.
In the semi-finals, Suso and Luuk de Jong became the 10th and 11th different scorers for Sevilla in this season’s Europa League – only United (12) have had more in this year’s competition.
And that concludes the 2019/20 season for both clubs who have made genuine strides this season – Inter by spending big, Sevilla by spending very little. They will both play in the Champions League next term and that is not too far away. The draw for the group stages will be held on October 1.
Before that, will play the winners of the Champions League in the UEFA Super Cup Final in Budapest on September 24.
CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS
Stay updated with everything sports and betting.