After setting up the opening goal, making several impressive stops in regulation time and saving three penalties in the shoot-out, Andrés Palop believes Sevilla FC's successful 2006/07 UEFA Cup campaign will always command a special place in his heart.
'He made the difference'
Palop proved the scourge of RCD Espanyol in Glasgow. It was the 33-year-old that unlocked their defence after 18 minutes, hurling a brilliant early throw to Adriano Correia near the halfway line following a corner, from which the Brazilian scored the opener. Almost 90 minutes later he was in more familiar guise, saving penalties from Luis García, Jônatas and Marc Torrejón as Sevilla regained the UEFA Cup. Espanyol coach Ernesto Valverde was not understating the matter when he conceded that "[Sevilla's] goalkeeper, an outstanding player, made the difference."
The custodian himself was a picture of modesty, playing down his man of the match award. "It is great to receive individual recognition but the team trophy is far more important," insisted the former Valencia CF goalkeeper. "I'm glad I contributed by making two or three good saves during the game and I felt in good form. Before the penalty shoot-out I was really nervous. Penalties are about intuition and luck and it was on our side tonight and I'm delighted to have won the trophy in front of so many fans." Those supporters cheered loudest when Palop held the cup aloft and there was an element of fate about the whole thing.
Sevilla were staring a UEFA Cup exit square in the face as they entered the fourth minute of added time against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 trailing 4-3 on aggregate. It was Palop, up for a corner, who powered in a header to force extra time and from then on there was no looking back for the Andalusian side. "It was a perfect tournament for me," he beamed. "I scored a goal, I saved penalties and set up some chances - I'll take memories of the campaign with me to old age."
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