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Author`s name Alex Naumov

Sevilla wins UEFA Cup again

Sevilla drew on its raucous support and an inspired goalkeeper to beat Espanyol and become the first team in more than 20 years to retain the UEFA Cup on Wednesday.

Backed by more than 15,000 fans filling an entire end of Hampden Park, Sevilla drew 2-2 with Espanyol through extra time before Andres Palop added to an already impressive performance by saving three penalty kicks in a 3-1 shootout win.

Although the first all-Spanish UEFA Cup final was played in distinctly un-Iberian conditions, steady rain and unseasonably cool temperatures provided a slick surface that lent itself to a quick passing game that showcased the best of Spanish soccer.

Sevilla showed why it is in contention for an unprecedented treble in Spanish soccer, with the chance of adding the Spanish league and Copa del Rey titles.

Third in the league and in the Copa final, Sevilla withstood heavy pressure from its opponent and twice recovered from losing the lead to match Real Madrid's 1986 feat of retaining the trophy.

Although Espanyol never lost a tournament game in regular time, it was Sevilla's players who, with the experience of last season's win, kept their nerve in the shootout to send the team's fans wild.

"We were never down on the score," coach Juande Ramos said. "We were ahead on the score, they drew, we were ahead, they drew. We had many possibilities to score and close the match in regular time. If you look at the match overall, Sevilla has been superior.

"The season has already been successful thanks to this victory. Our players are in high spirits and we can tackle the league and the Copa del Rey."

Sevilla took its first lead when Adriano Correira scored in the 18th minute. Albert Riera made it 1-1 in the 28th, and Espanyol created several good chances after that but failed to convert.

Sevilla came close to winning in extra time when Frederic Kanoute scored to make it 2-1, but substitute Jonatas hit a swerving shot with five of the 30 extra minutes left to send the game to a shootout, the AP reports.

It was that save that swiftly led to Sevilla's opener on 18 minutes. Palop threw a long pass out to the left flank where Adriano Correia gathered. His pace took him away from David Garcia's desperate lunge, and with Espanyol caught short at the back, Adriano advanced into the box before curling decisively around Gorka Iraizoz.

The goal stunned the Catalans but they were behind for only 10 minutes.

Riera, who had gained possession on halfway, cut in from the left flank running parallel across the edge of the box. Setting his sights on goal, his right-footed shot caught the outstretched foot of Daniel Alves and the deflection was enough to deceive Palop.

Ramos introduced the more attack-minded Jesus Navas for Maresca at the start of the second half and the change gave Sevilla greater balance.

Pandiani was also thrown into the fray after 55 minutes, seconds after Tamudo had forced Palop into tipping his rising shot over the bar.

Espanyol had their tails up and Palop came to his side's rescue again, producing a stunning one-handed save to palm Riera's left-footed half-volley, struck with real venom, on to the crossbar.

A goal at that stage would have been just reward but they were put on the backfoot after 68 minutes when Hurtado, booked in the first half, halted substitute Alexander Kerzhakov's run with a tackle from behind and was sent off.

Sevilla, with their man advantage, became the dominant side and looked to have settled the tie when Navas crossed low from the right and Kanoute, a peripheral figure for much of the game, got in front of his marker to turn in at the near post at the end of the first extra half.

Espanyol rode their luck after that but conjured an equaliser when Brazilian Jonatas curled in with a shot that deflected off Christian Poulsen and past a despairing Palop.

Kanoute struck first for Sevilla in the shootout before Ivica Dragutinovic and Antonio Puerta also scored for Sevilla, although Daniel Alves missed.

Pandiani was Espanyol's only scorer in the shootout, but it was not enough to prevent Sevilla retaining their trophy, Reuters reports.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
Pravda.ru

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