RCD Espanyol goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz cut a dignified figure as he tried to come to terms with his club's heartbreaking defeat by Sevilla FC in Wednesday's UEFA Cup final. "We were desperate to win but we can be proud of the way we lost," said the man who, perhaps more than any other, had kept Sevilla at bay after Espanyol were reduced to ten men midway through the second half.
Despite Moisés Hurtado's 68th-minute dismissal, and the setbacks of twice falling behind in the match, Espanyol showed tremendous courage to keep coming back over 120 enthralling minutes at Hampden Park. Albert Riera and substitute Jônatas were the goalscoring heroes for the Catalan side, yet it was Iraizoz who epitomised their relentless desire to secure a first European trophy. The realisation that this was not to be was hard to take for the 26-year-old. "It is difficult to be positive because we are all hurting right now," he told uefa.com. "We are, to use the vernacular, absolutely knackered. We were close to winning the match for at least 90 minutes and, in the end, we lost on penalties, which are a lottery."
'We gave everything'
If there was no silverware, there was at least great pride to be taken from a reverse which, being decided by a shoot-out, maintained Espanyol's unbeaten record in the UEFA Cup this season. "In the event, we haven't lost a game in this competition," the No1 continued. "We couldn't have given any more out there. We made mistakes, as players do in every game, but every single one of us gritted our teeth and carried on. We can be very proud of our attitude and how we conducted ourselves throughout the game. All the boys ran themselves into the ground yet kept going until the very last kick. It is tough but we have to be proud of what we have done."
For Espanyol playmaker Iván de la Peña, whose promptings before the sending-off appeared to be putting the Barcelona-based team into pole position to win the tie, there was the small consolation of having performed so well on the big stage. "To lose on penalties is a lottery, but all the hard work we put into the game wasn't for nothing," he stressed. "We can take a lot of pride from what we did, from the way we kept on going until the end, from being one of the best sides in this competition, and from showing that we are a great team. To have played the way we did in a final is a source of great pride." Yet there were few dry eyes among Ernesto Valverde's players after the match, and this second defeat in a UEFA Cup final – following Espanyol's penalties loss to Bayer O4 Leverkusen in 1988 – was "really painful" according to striker Walter Pandiani. "We have had such a good campaign and done so well, but now we haven't got the cup that we came here to win. We really wanted to win after everything we have done and for all the fans who have made such an effort to come over and support us," said the tournament's eleven-goal top scorer.
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