Sevilla’s Europa League Hat-Trick is One of the Great European Accomplishments
How to judge the scale of Sevilla’s Europa League achievement? The glitz and glamour of a Champions League record may not be there, but this remains an astonishing feat in football as we know it today.
Sevilla’s third consecutive Europa League title was sealed in Basle on Wednesday as Liverpool were dispatched 3-1 – making Unai Emery’s side the first to win the competition three years in succession.
Three-peating in European competition is nothing new. Real Madrid won the first five European Cups before Ajax and then Bayern Munich grabbed respective hat-tricks between 1971 and 1976.
But that was then, and this is now.
Ajax had Cruyff and Neeskens. Bayern had Muller, Beckenbauer and Hoeness.
Sevilla’s economic reality means that only Emery is lineal as a key cog through their triumphs.
This brings into sharp focus the enormity of the triumph he has led, and his sporting director Monchi.
Starting Emery’s first full season at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla lost top scorer Alvaro Negredo and home-town hero Jesus Navas, both sold to Manchester City.
No worry, Ivan Rakitic and Carlos Bacca would fill their boots with aplomb and Benfica were beaten on penalties in Turin.
Rakitic was promptly sold to Barcelona.
No worry, Ever Banega was man of the match a year later as Dnipro were beaten in Warsaw, Bacca twice on the scoresheet – and promptly sold to Milan.
Wednesday’s victory in itself was a microcosm of Sevilla’s hat-trick.
Always fighting against the odds and always finding the answers. Daniel Sturridge had swept Liverpool into the lead with a glorious effort with the outside of his supreme left foot.
But Sevilla’s spirit shone through, and they made a mockery of a season which has seen them fail to win any of their 19 away games in La Liga this season.
An equaliser came with 17 seconds on the clock in the second half – the man to fill Bacca’s boots, Kevin Gameiro, ensuring the circle goes on – and they took the lead with a razor-sharp move inspired by Vitolo and drilled home by Coke – captain for the night, but a bit-part player through the season.
Coke had never scored a European goal before, but he got a second soon after as Liverpool wilted and Emery’s latest unlikely hero was launched.
A fifth success in this competition, to add to the two won in successive years under Juande Ramos, is another record.
Forget the secondary nature of the competition, Sevilla deserve a place among the absolute greats of the game.