Juande Ramos insisted that experience told as Sevilla FC held their nerves to regain the UEFA Cup on penalties after RCD Espanyol twice came back to draw 2-2 at Hampden Park. Having played for over 50 minutes with ten men, the Catalan outfit took great credit and until Moisés Hurtado's dismissal their coach Ernesto Valverde admitted he was very optimistic, musing: "We were almost in heaven but then it came crashing down."
Andrés Palop was the principal cause of the downfall, denying Luis García, Jônatas and Marc Torrejón from the spot as Sevilla prevailed 3-1 on penalties, though Ramos conceded victory was not without some good fortune. "A penalty shoot-out is a lottery," said the 52-year-old. "Tension means anything can happen as with the pressure on the legs get heavy and people get nervous. We were able to draw on the experience of playing last year, though, so we were stronger. And Palop was excellent."
Last season's win came courtesy of a dominant 4-0 victory against Middlesbrough FC in Eindhoven but when Albert Riera cancelled out Adriano Correia's early goal before the half-hour mark, the tone was set for a far more even battle. Frédéric Kanouté restored the advantage in extra time but with five minutes to go Jônatas struck to force the most dramatic of finales. "We went ahead, they equalised, we regained the lead and they equalised again," said Ramos. "Espanyol kept on coming back, they were extremely strong opponents and deserve credit but Sevilla were superior throughout."
His Espanyol counterpart Valverde disagreed slightly, saying: "There was a moment when I thought we were going to win just before the sending off as we were looking impressive, making so many opportunities. But then Moisés Hurtado was dismissed and it changed things. Sevilla were attacking as always, and threatened a number of times. But so did we and their goalkeeper was excellent." No more so than in the penalty shoot-out, a particular woe for Valverde who was in the playing ranks when the Espanyol lost to Bayer 04 Leverkusen by the same manner 19 years ago.
"There must be something about Espanyol and the UEFA Cup final," he reflected. "Twice we have reached it but twice we have lost on penalties. It was a really cruel way to end - we were really unlucky." The side will now turn their focus to the conclusion of the Primera División, as will Sevilla who are still in the hunt for that title, as well as the Copa del Rey. "It's been a great year for us. We won the UEFA Super Cup against Barcelona and now we've wound up winning the UEFA Cup too. Whatever happens now our season has already been a success," Ramos said.
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