Luis Fabiano came off the bench to spark Sevilla FC into life as the Spanish side secured a 3-0 defeat of SK Slavia Praha to finish top of UEFA Champions League Group H. With the game goalless in the Czech capital, the Brazilian forward emerged with little over half-an-hour left to score one and create two more for Frédéric Kanouté and Daniel Alves as Sevilla pipped Arsenal FC to first place.
Last chance for Slavia
Slavia coach Karel Jarolím had promised that his team, destined for third position and the UEFA Cup, would exploit their last chance to shine on Europe's biggest stage, and with Vladimír Šmicer buzzing effectively behind lone striker Milan Ivana, the hosts began with purpose. They even created a first-minute opening for Daniel Pudil although the midfielder's powder-puff header was comfortably dealt with.
UEFA Cup holders Sevilla had laid the foundations for their convincing 4-2 victory over Slavia on Matchday 2 with an early goal from Kanouté. The forward almost repeated the dose after nine minutes in Prague, but saw his firm header fly narrowly wide of Martin Vaniak's left-hand post. The visitors then appeared to have made the breakthrough just after the quarter-hour mark when Alves's vicious long-range strike found its way into the net. However, a decisive deflection off team-mate Arouna Koné, in an offside position, meant it was rightly ruled out.
Off the post
As Arsenal had found out when they were held here on Matchday 4, Slavia are a tough proposition at the Evžena Rošického Stadium. Twice Šmicer was denied a clear sight of goal by Ivica Dragutinović's timely intervention, before Ivana went within centimetres of putting the Czech league leaders in front on 34 minutes. The No20, making his second start in the competition, tricked his way through a block of black-shirted defenders only to see his side-footed shot ricochet off a post.
If Šmicer's enforced departure at half-time deprived Slavia of their most experienced asset and attacking fulcrum, it also allowed Sevilla to take control of proceedings. Koné twice passed up the opportunity to put the Spanish outfit ahead, before Kanouté elicited a marvellous double stop from Vaniak. With Slavia reeling, Sevilla coach Manuel Jiménez brought on top scorer Fabiano and he tipped the scales decisively in favour of the Andalusians. On the pitch for only seven minutes, he raced on to fellow replacement Enzo Maresca's perfectly weighted pass to fire a rising shot beyond Vaniak for his fourth goal of this campaign.
Fabiano turned provider in the 69th minute to ensure Sevilla would ride out the remainder of the contest in comfort, instantly diverting Diego Capel's cross into the path of Kanouté who fended off Marek Suchý before whipping the ball past Vaniak. As Slavia pressed forward in search of a consolation, Fabiano completed a dream finale, slipping the ball to the raiding Alves who sealed victory three minutes from time.