Sevilla FC gave a display of immense style and power to defeat FC Steaua Bucureşti 2-1 and claim second place in UEFA Champions League Group H for themselves.
Juande Ramos's charges won thanks to goals from Frédéric Kanouté and Luis Fabiano, and after resisting the temptation to succumb to a late Steaua revival prompted by Ovidiu Petre's second-half strike.
Ramos had asked for a high-tempo performance, an early goal and the immediate establishment of territorial rights. So specifically did his players meet those requests that it looked as if the Sevilla coach was managing their performance by remote control in real time.
Just as in Sevilla's previous home win over SK Slavia Praha on Matchday 2, the powerful African combination of Kanouté and Seydou Keita was hard for Steaua to handle. The UEFA Cup holders were ahead within five minutes when Keita won a key tackle in his own penalty box, sent a visionary pass down the wing to Diego Capel and watched the young winger supply Kanouté. Once more, the striker finished with aplomb and set the perfect tone.
Confidence flooded through the hosts and Steaua, if anything, seemed bewildered by such strength, pace and panache. Jesús Navas, Christian Poulsen and Fabiano all threatened Robinson Zapata's goal before the Brazilian forward added his eighth goal in nine games on 17 minutes to put Sevilla 2-0 up.
Ramos had pointed out that Fabiano's fortunes fluctuate in tune with his morale. But his clever positioning on the shoulder of the last defender and lightning-quick reactions were from the top order of European striking. Aquivaldo Mosquera and Daniel Alves played a swift one-two before the latter hit a first-time pass which Fabiano turned into a perfect breakaway: dancing round Zapata and slamming the ball in off Ifeanyi Emeghera's despairing lunge.
Apart from one Nicolae Dică header at the back post, Steaua only featured via last-ditch penalty area blocks and damage limitation across the pitch. Had Keita's astonishing 40-metre volley not rattled the left-hand post just before the break then the scoreline would, justifiably, have been more ample.
Made to pay
Sevilla's buccaneering approach – they played large chunks of the second half in a 4-2-4 rather than 4-4-2 formation – stemmed from the fact Poulsen and Keita were magnificent in central midfield. Yet as group rivals Arsenal FC scored for fun against Slavia, the Sevilla crowd grew anxious that domination was not leading to a clearer victory. And almost on cue, Steaua scored their first goal from open play at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán in three visits. Substitute Adrian Neaga found space in the penalty box and, despite his shot being blocked, Petre was first to the rebound and dinked it over Andrés Palop.
Off the post
Still, Fabiano wanted to stamp his name more indelibly on the display and responded to the Steaua goal with a fierce shot off the post. Then, with 15 minutes remaining, he sent an even more powerful header just wide from an Alves free-kick. His double may not have arrived, but Sevilla's success duly did.