Sevilla FC closed on the UEFA Europa League Group J summit as Frédéric Kanouté's goal 11 minutes before the interval piled on the misery for FC Karpaty Lviv.
The Ukrainian side were in desperate need of victory following defeats by Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain FC but ultimately had no answer to Kanouté's header, their misery compounded by Vyacheslav Checher's late dismissal.
The odds were always stacked against the hosts. Oleg Kononov's men went into the game on the back of four successive defeats, without a goal in 346 minutes. There was a sense that fortunes may be turning when Julien Escudé's header dropped onto the crossbar with Vitaliy Rudenko well beaten, yet it failed to spark Karpaty to life.
Instead it was Sevilla, spluttering and stalling in the Ukrainian cold, who slowly got moving. Kanouté rewarded their grafting dominance, rising above a static defence to head in after Diego Perotti's corner was flicked on by Escudé.
Finally Kononov's side awakened. Had Sergei Zenjov shown as much poise in collecting Denys Kozhanov's through ball as the No9 had in making it, it would have been 1-1 before half-time. A raking Andriy Tkachuk pass similarly evaded Kozhanov while after the restart Danilo Avelar should at least have warmed Andrés Palop's gloves when he found space – he sent his shot high and wide.
For as long as there was only a goal in it Karpaty always had a chance though Escudé – as dominant at the back as he was on forays forward – massively restricted them. His pace, power and prescience was no better displayed than when Palop dropped a regulation cross after the hour. The French centre-back sprang into action, shielding the ball from the lurking Kozhanov and clearing the danger. That difference in class was telling.
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