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Palop ensures cup joy for Sevilla

RCD Espanyol 2-2 Sevilla FC (aet, Sevilla win 3-1 on penalties)
Andrés Palop saved three spot kicks as the holders edged a thrilling all-Spanish final.

Palop ensures cup joy for Sevilla
Palop ensures cup joy for Sevilla ©UEFA.com

Andrés Palop saved three shoot-out penalties as Sevilla FC became the second side to retain the UEFA Cup –  despite twice losing the lead – as they finally defeated ten-man RCD Espanyol 3-1 on spot kicks after a gripping contest in Glasgow.

The holders, bidding to emulate Real Madrid CF who lifted this trophy in 1985 and 1986, took an 18th-minute lead through Adriano only for Albert Riera to level ten minutes later. Espanyol, who had lost the 1988 final on penalties, were hit by the second-half dismissal of Moisés Hurtado but still managed to take the game into extra time.

Frédéric Kanouté – who also scored in last year's final – restored Sevilla's advantage but again Espanyol fought back through Jônatas's deflected drive. It took the drama of a shoot-out in which Palop saved from Luis García, Jônatas and Marc Torrejón to finally end their hopes.

Sevilla coach Juande Ramos started with nine of the team who were involved in last year's final victory, and initially it seemed that experience would prove crucial as the holders began the brighter. Espanyol then found their feet and started to pose problems of their own, as David García discovered space down the left and sent in a low cross that was cleverly dummied by Luis García for captain Raúl Tamudo to prod in a low shot that Palop gathered comfortably.

Moisés was then allowed to advance towards the Sevilla penalty area and hit a low shot that forced the Sevilla goalkeeper to dive to his right and palm the ball behind. Seconds later a goal arrived – but at the other end: Palop caught the resulting corner and swiftly freed Adriano down the left with a searching throw. The Brazilian skipped past the lunge of David García and cut in towards goal before beating Gorka Iraizoz with a calm finish.

Suddenly Sevilla were on top and another foray down the same flank almost brought further reward as left-back Ivica Dragutinović's low cross flashed across the face of goal with no one from either side there to meet it. Just as it looked as if the holders were taking control, however, they were pegged back. Riera skipped past Daniel Alves on the corner of the penalty area and, with time and space, produced a shot which took a crucial deflection off the Sevilla right-back and looped beyond Palop's dive.

The second period picked up where the first had left off, and both goalkeepers were pressed into service in the opening moments. Although Palop was the more severely tested, first palming over Tamudo's shot after good work from Iván de la Peña and then denying Riera a spectacular second goal, clawing over the midfielder's thunderous angled volley with the help of the crossbar.

Espanyol then lost Moisés to a red card and Sevilla began to press back their opponents as they sought to exploit their numerical advantage. Yet the team from Barcelona survived to take the game into extra time, where that defensive excellence continued until Sevilla's slick passing finally yielded tangible reward: the final kick of the first extra period was Kanouté's close-range flick-in from Jesús Navas's right-wing cross. That looked to have finally ended Espanyol's challenge but somehow Ernesto Valverde’s men roused themselves yet again.

With five minutes left, substitute Jônatas advanced to beat Palop with a strike that deflected off Christian Poulsen, taking the final to its dramatic conclusion. Kanouté, Dragutinović and Antonio Puerta all scored in the shoot-out for the winners. Alves blazed Sevilla's third penalty over the bar but it mattered little as Palop saved three times, Walter Pandiani the only Espanyol player to find the net.