By Emmanuel Ebimoh
The road to the 2020 finals of Europe’s prestigious competitions has definitely not been smooth for some of the elite teams in the continent. Maybe the quick change of plan to have the remaining knock-out rounds of matches at neutral venues without spectators due to the ongoing global pandemic, didn’t do much for the course of some of Europe’s big teams. With teams like Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Atletico Madrid already out of the UEFA Champions League, we are set to see at least one new finalist in the competition on August 23 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Also, perhaps even intriguing, the UEFA Europa League has not left us without its own dashes of surprises. For some football enthusiasts, the exit of Manchester United in their Semi-Final clash against Sevilla might not have come as a big surprise following the recent success of the latter in the competition. But for many neutrals, the result would appear as another big story in the 2020 book of bitter surprises.
Having narrowly gone pass FC Copahengen in the Quarter Finals, the Red Devils of Manchester United had all to play for when they faced Sevilla in a first-of-its-kind Semi-Final clash in the competition. A win for United would have been the perfect response for critics on the performance of English teams in Europe this season, but it seemed like a little more to ask from Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and his United players.
The match started well for Manchester United as they had more of the opening chances on goal, and it didn’t take long before the early chances paid off. With just 8 minutes on the clock, Marcus Rashord made a dashing run into the Sevilla box and was fouled by Diego Carlos – an obvious penalty anytime. With composure and calmness as always, Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes stepped up to put the ball in the net with a well-taken spot kick. It was his 8th goal in 10 matches in the competition for United so far. However, it didn’t take long before Sevilla, who have apparently become specialists in the Europa League, equalised to put the game at 1-1 before half time. Sevilla’s Sergio Regulion sent a teasing cross that passed three Manchester United defenders and into the path of a teammate, Suso, who curled the ball into an almost empty net.
Manchester started the second half much as they did in the first half with even more intensity and drive, but they were going to regret the succession of chances they squandered early in the half, no thanks to the brilliance of Sevilla’s goalkeeper, Yassine Bounou. To punish United for not taking their chances, Sevilla’s striker, Luuk De Jong pounced on a fine cross by Jesus Navas in the 78th minute of the game to give the Spanish side a 2-1 lead. It was another poor defending by United and another moment of lack in concentration. This time, they were made to suffer the consequence of their error as Sevilla held on for a valuable victory and their 4th Europa League final in six years.
Sevilla will play the winner between Inter-Milan and Shaktar Donetsk in the Europa League final on Friday, August 21.