Despite the heartbreak of a penalty shoot-out loss to Sevilla FC in the UEFA Cup final, RCD Espanyol forward Luis García left Hampden Park with his head held high.
"We have done Espanyol proud," the 26-year-old forward said as he reflected on a 2-2 draw after extra time before Sevilla prevailed 3-1 on penalties. Espanyol had managed to equalise twice despite being reduced to ten men by the second-half dismissal of Moisés Hurtado. García was one of three Espanyol players whose spot-kicks were saved by Andrés Palop but remained proud of his side's efforts, saying: "The team gave everything; we played with ten men, conceded a goal in extra time and still came back. We could have won this cup."
'Hard to take'
Espanyol also lost the 1988 final on penalties, against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, and García believes the pain of this defeat will be felt just as deeply: "Of course, I remember what happened against Leverkusen and that was hard to take. This is really hard too. But it is an honour to play for Espanyol, to wear this shirt and play for these fans. They were tremendous, cheering us on when we were 2-1 behind. We were a man down, a goal down and nobody else gave us a chance, but they gave us extra legs. There are no fans quite like them."
García's team fell behind twice, with Adriano Correia and Frédéric Kanouté scoring for Sevilla, but on each occasion they fought back as Albert Riera and Jônatas both equalised. "We were really strong mentally and even when we took a really heavy blow with the Kanouté goal in extra time, we kept on going and never gave up," García said. "Then it went to the lottery of penalties and I can't think of anything more unfair than losing this way. I don't feel angry, just a sense of impotence. The penalties don't reflect what went on in the game."
'We'll be back'
His side may have lost in devastating fashion, but García is convinced Espanyol's performance gives them a platform for the future. "We were immense out there and found it within ourselves to come back twice," he said. "But we are going home without the cup and we are really down. Hopefully, it won't be too long before Espanyol are back playing a European final."
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