August 24 – Sevilla remain the undisputed kings of the Europa League, winning the tournament for a sixth time after a dramatic and absorbing 3-2 comeback against Inter Milan in the final behind closed doors.
Cologne was the venue for the first major European club final in a bio-secure environment, but the thrilling showpiece match again justified UEFA’s decision to complete this season’s continental club competitions in a quick-fire tournament format.
Resurgent under coach Antonio Conte, Inter Milan took the lead early on after defender Diego Carlos committed a penalty offense on Romelu Lukaku and the Belgian striker duly converted the spot kick.
Dutch striker Luuk de Jong then scored twice for the Spanish club before veteran defender Diego Godin erased Sevilla’s lead after 35 minutes. The teams could not possibly sustain this high-intensity drama and after the break nerves frayed and legs tired for the match’s level to drop off.
Ultimately, Lukaku, whose 34 goals this season levelled the tally of Brazil’s Ronaldo when Inter won the same competition in 1998, proved to be decisive, but at the wrong end of the pitch. The Italian defense failed to clear a free kick and Diego Carlos’s overhead bicycle kick was diverted by the Belgian into his own net.
It was a cruel end for Lukaku and Inter. However, Sevilla consolidated their status of market leader in UEFA’s second-tier club competition. They have built their identity around the Europa League and came good again with a dramatic turnaround. The victory provided redemption in particular for coach Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked in the space of four months in 2018 by both Spain and Real Madrid.
The future of his counterpart at Inter Milan is in doubt. Antonio Conte said: “We’ll take a few days off and then meet [with the president] with cool heads. I don’t have many regrets now, my players gave really everything they had against a team used to playing these kind of games. Many young players earned a great dose of valuable experience this season. They can continue on this path with great confidence.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1601005105labto1601005105ofdlr1601005105owedi1601005105sni@o1601005105fni1601005105