Juande Ramos became the first coach to lead a side to consecutive UEFA Cup titles as Sevilla FC beat RCD Espanyol on penalties at Hampden Park, leaving counterpart Ernesto Valverde to harbour the agony of defeat yet again.
Both coaches have experienced UEFA Cup showpieces before yet they cut nervous figures in the opening stages, biting nails as they waited to see how matters panned out. Ramos was put at ease first as his side enjoying the better start, with Adriano Correia and Daniel Alves causing Espanyol's defence problems with their direct running and forcing Valverde to stride out into the technical area to issue orders. Whatever he said had immediate effect as Los Periquitos began to find their feet. Raúl Tamudo and Moisés Hurtado both worked Andrés Palop, though the goalkeeper saved comfortably each time, and on 18 minutes he showed he has not lost his nose for attacking either.
If not for Palop's last-gasp header against FC Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla's defence would have ended in the last 16, and tonight his first-half contribution was a brilliant early throw following a corner. The ball fell to Adriano who skipped past David García before slipping it beyond Gorka Iraizoz. His team-mates responded in the time-honoured way, leaping on the goalscorer as he ran to the corner flag but as Ramos skipped down the steps and to the edge of the pitch, it was Palop who received his appreciative wave. He was nowhere to be seen ten minutes later as Albert Reira equalised though Valverde was, sprinting to the side of the pitch and using the opportunity to drill his defence.
It was the sort of focus the Catalan outfit have come to expect from a man hailing from Caceres, a town renowned for its storks - potent symbols of birth in the catholic faith. He has instilled a similar aura of renewal at Espanyol since taking over in summer 2005, guiding them to the Copa del Rey last season - only the fourth major trophy of their 107-year history. Now they were in a UEFA Cup final for the second time. Valverde was also involved in the first against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in 1988, as a player. Part of the side that established a three-goal cushion in the first encounter, he sat out a disastrous second leg as they eventually lost on penalties.
He now refers to that experience as "the one that got away" and he was determined to make amends in Glasgow. Before the hour Tamudo stung Palop's fingers and the goalkeeper was called on again to tip over Riera's stunning dipping volley. Yet in a match which swung one way and then the next, the scales seemed tipped in Sevilla's favour midway through the half when Moisés Hurtado was dismissed. A man down on the field, Valverde sought to make up for the deficit with a lonely vigil in the technical area before opting to bring on another defender, Jesús María Lacruz, at the expense of Tamudo.
"Tanta gloria, tanto fútbol" (so much glory, so much football) a banner had read just before kick-off yet now there was no time for poetry - it was a matter of grit for the underdogs. Meanwhile Ramos, who was dismissed after just five games as Espanyol coach in 2002, urged his players forward. Chances went begging as the game drifted into extra time before Frédéric Kanouté made it 2-1. Jônatas equalised from long range with just five minutes remaining but was then one of three Espanyol players to see their penalty saved by Palop in the resulting shoot-out as Ramos's Sevilla triumphed.
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