Sevilla show mettle in Lyon stalemate
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Sevilla's exemplary defensive record came to the fore again as a goalless draw at Lyon took the winners of the last three UEFA Europa Leagues into the round of 16.
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With their fifth clean sheet in Group H away to Lyon, Sevilla achieved their objective for the first half of the season by qualifying for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds for the first time since 2010.
Lyon now continue their European campaign in the UEFA Europa League, partly because Corentin Tolisso and Mathieu Valbuena put efforts onto the bar in the first half rather than hitting the net.
For Sevilla's part their main threat, from Vitolo, also rebounded off the goal frame in the opening period while Gabriel Mercado's second-half booking means the defender will miss the first leg of the round of 16 through suspension. However, it was the hosts, requiring a two-goal winning margin, who were left with the greater frustration.
Key player: Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla)
The Frenchman revealed this week that he'd been on the point of leaving Sevilla in the summer, only to respond to a personal appeal from Jorge Sampaoli to not just stay but become the 'boss' of the Rojiblancos midfield. He is delighted with his choice, explaining that working under the Argentinian is fun, and this match offered further proof – if any were needed – that his club should thank their lucky stars he opted to remain. The midfielder was terrific here, as he has been throughout Group H. Without his savvy, calm and ability to change the tempo of the match, the visitors would have been in much greater difficulties.
Sevilla repeating Europa League benefits
Yet more evidence that the UEFA Europa League is terrific preparation for a good UEFA Champions League campaign. Many of the Sevilla side that secured the result needed to take them through to the last 16 have cut their teeth winning at least one UEFA Europa League, or indeed three. Without that experience, Lyon's terrific effort here might have edged them through. Sevilla were not at their best, but their capacity to cope with the pressure and tension showed all the street wisdom this team have acquired over the last three seasons.
Finishing lets Lyon down
Lyon failed to score in two games against Sevilla and only registered one goal against Juventus. It was not for a lack of opportunities created. At the highest level Lyon's chance conversion rate must be improved as there are only so many positives that can be taken out of decent displays. Against Sevilla, Lyon were patient and creative, yet couldn't muster a goal.
David Crossan, Lyon (@UEFAcomDavidC)
Lyon had also struck the woodwork twice in Seville and will feel that luck has not been on their side in the competition this season. They might easily have won both matches against Juve on the balance of chances. Elimination will hurt, but Bruno Génésio's young charges – including six academy graduates against Sevilla – will have learnt much from the campaign.
Graham Hunter, Sevilla (@BumperGraham)
Good coach though he is in his day-to-day work, one of the things that undoubtedly attracted Sevilla to Sampaoli was his proven ability in knockout competitions – notably in winning the Copa Sudamericana and Copa América, and in knocking FIFA World Cup holders Spain out of Brazil 2014. The Argentinian watched from the stands here following his red card on matchday five, but he will be able to prove his cup pedigree again in the round of 16 – and perhaps beyond.