Sevilla retain UEFA Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> 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.

Updated: May 19, 2007 14:53 IST
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Glasgow, Scotland:

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.

Palop the hero

Kanoute, Ivica Dragutinovic and Antonio Puerta scored for Sevilla, while only Walter Pandiani scored for Espanyol. Palop saved penalties from Luis Garcia, Jonatas and Marc Torrejon.

"We thought they were catching up with us and then they drew level," man-of-the-match Palop said. "But penalties are complicated."

The defending UEFA Cup champion withstood heavy pressure in the second half but imposed itself after Espanyol's Moises Hurtado was sent off in the 68th for a second yellow card.

The intensity on the field was matched by the fervor off it as the groups of opposing fans in the 48,000 crowd took turns to outsing the other. Many were dressed in Scottish Tam O'Shanter hats and wearing kilts of tartan in team colors despite the cold.

Espanyol fans swung their blue scarves while singing songs honoring their club and captain Raul Tamudo, and the red-clad Sevilla contingent at the other end of the stadium jeered them for doing so.

The roles were then reversed as fans of the Andalusian team sang and chanted, drawing whistles and boos from their Espanyol counterparts.

Adriano Correira put Sevilla ahead with a right-foot shot from the left that curled past goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz at the far post, but Riera made it 1-1 with a run and 20-meter (yard) shot that deflected off right back Daniel Alves.

Espanyol brought on Pandiani, the tournament's leading scorer with 11 goals, as a 56th-minute substitute and Riera almost made it 2-1 a minute later with a swerving shot from the left that was headed for the top corner until Palop flicked it onto the crossbar.

Hurtado was sent off for halting a counterattack on the edge of the area with a needless tackle from behind on substitute Alexandr Kerzhakov. It was his second yellow card for such an offence.

Cruel final

"It was a real cruel final," said Espanyol coach Ernesto Valverde, who lost the 1988 UEFA Cup final with Espanyol as a player. "There was a period I thought we were going to win before the sending off." In a hectic last 10 minutes of regular time, Iraizoz saved shots from Kanoute, Jesus Navas and Renato.

With greater numbers and more experience than Espanyol - nine of Sevilla's starting 11 played in last season's 4-0 final rout of Middlesbrough - Sevilla went 2-1 up in the 105th when Jesus Navas crossed from the right and Kanoute tapped the ball in from close range.

Jonatas gave Espanyol hope with his 115th-minute equaliser, but could not repeat his accuracy in the shootout.

"My team played with a big heart," Valverde said. "If I could choose the way to lose, this would be the way to lose."

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