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Sevilla FC are tonight celebrating their first European trophy after a thrilling second-half display won the UEFA Cup final for the Spanish club against Middlesbrough FC at the PSV Stadion.
Luis Fabiano's 27th-minute header had put them on course for victory, but the game was in the balance until two late strikes from Enzo Maresca and a fourth from Frédéric Kanouté started the party, Juande Ramos's men clinching the club's first major honour since 1948. It had been an extraordinary ride for Middlesbrough en route to the final, but there was no way back as Steve McClaren's final match before becoming England manager ended in defeat.
After a glorious day in Eindhoven, the sun was still shining brightly on one section of the Middlesbrough support when their favourites created the first chance three minutes in. Javi Navarro conceded a free-kick which Fábio Rochemback, also a losing finalist last year with Sporting Clube de Portugal, rifled straight at Andrés Palop in the Sevilla goal. The keeper was unable to hold the Brazilian's fierce shot but the Andalusian team were first to the rebound.
During a surprisingly free-flowing opening, Sevilla came right back and twice in quick succession Chris Riggott was forced to give away a corner, intercepting the ball as first Adriano Correia then Luis Fabiano crossed low from the left. Despite some clever build-up play from Sevilla, Mark Schwarzer, playing in a protective mask in his first game back after breaking his cheekbone, was not required to make a save until the 24th minute when he comfortably collected Adriano's low drive from distance.
Moments later, however, Sevilla were ahead. Right-back Daniel picked up the ball midway into the Middlesbrough half and crossed into the area where Luis Fabiano rose unmarked to head in off the post with Schwarzer rooted to his line. The Sevilla support erupted and there was nearly more to celebrate immediately afterwards as Adriano then Maresca went close with long-range efforts.
Middlesbrough were losing possession too easily in midfield, but James Morrison lifted the Premiership outfit on 34 minutes. His pace unsettled the Sevilla defence on the right and he darted to the touchline to earn a corner. Luis Fabiano, though, nodded clear and the brief Middlesbrough flurry came to nothing. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, struggling to make an impact against Julien Escudé, urged his side forward in frustration. Sevilla were in command.
Middlesbrough had fought back brilliantly to defeat FC Basel 1893, and FC Steaua Bucuresti in the previous rounds and at half-time McClaren brought on Massimo Maccarone, match-winner in those thrilling ties, to try and recover the initiative. Juande Ramos also made a change, Kanouté on for Javier Saviola, and both teams kicked off looking to attack. Adriano's curling attempt flew narrowly wide, then Palop saved with his legs as Mark Viduka bore down on goal. Sevilla broke and Schwarzer parried Jesús Navas's stinging shot. Play was flowing from end to end and, on 60 minutes, Maccarone had Middlesbrough fans on their feet with a powerful effort that Palop tipped over.
With 20 minutes to play McClaren introduced a fourth attacker, Yakubu Ayegbeni, but Sevilla soon made him pay for his bold tactics. Twelve minutes from time, Navas broke free down the right and crossed low into the box. Schwarzer saved Kanouté's initial shot but Maresca followed up to put the final beyond doubt. The Italian struck again six minutes later and when Kanouté added the fourth soon after, Sevilla's joy was complete.
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