Wednesday in Turin's Juventus Stadium Spanish Football's Sevilla FC defeated Portugal's SL Benfica on penalties, after extra time, winning the Europa League 2014, their third such title in the past nine years. As of this writing UEFA is enforcing its copyright and blocking all video replays of the match. Update--here is the shootout.
The game was intense and both teams had plenty of chances to open the score. Neither took their chances very well and on those occasions when they did a defender of goalkeeper was always in the right place to pull off the save.
Some misses seemed incredibly comedic in how much more easy it would have been to score than to miss. Others were opportunistic chances that yet found the opposing number rising to the challenge.
The ref was doing his best to keep peace on a very tough tackling and at times very rough and foul plagued game. He mostly succeeded, but he missed a couple of penalties in Benfica's favor and a foul in Sevilla's favor which would have given them a free kick just outside the Portuguese team's box.
The game was at times an even exchange, a rhythmic ebb and flow. At others, it was more like a boxing match where the contestants take the time to study one another for a few rounds before deciding on an attacking strategy. Only in this game the teams seemed to jointly determine this at times while at others they would retreat to regroup before putting forth a burst of sustained energy as if they had just then decided the other guy was ripe for the taking.
When each team reached that moment of decisive action several dangerous plays would ensue as if a series of waves upon the opponent's box. But eventually a clearance would see the other side take over and the waves would crash upon the other side of the field.
Perhaps the most consistent aspect of the entire match, aside from the inefficiency of the teams' efforts, was the play of Ivan Rakitic. He seemed to be the one player thinking several moves ahead and able to place the ball exactly where his team needed it on both the offensive and defensive sides. His assist-worthy passes should have made the game a runaway for Sevilla. World Cup Group A contestants beware, a star is on the rise.
On the Benfica side, the number of goal-scoring chances at the end of both halves was countless. It was as if the field was tilted toward the Spanish side. But again, each chance was fruitless.
As the extra time came to a close Carlos Bacca had a golden one-on-one chance go begging, again off a Rakitic pass. One thing seemed certain as the whistle blew the end of the second extra time period, these were evenly matched sides who were leaving their all on the pitch.
The final was decided 4-2 on penalties with Portuguese keeper Beto the hero saving two shots. In the end, Bela Guttman had the last laugh and Benfica go to a 53rd year still without another European trophy.