With the UEFA Europa League over for another season, UEFA.com takes an alternative look at what caught the eye in this A-Z of a competition which began way back on 1 July 2010.
Article top media content
Atlético − It proved a campaign to forget for the holders so soon after their triumph in Hamburg against Fulham FC. They never recovered from a first-night defeat at Aris Thessaloniki FC and a 3-2 home loss to the Greek side on Matchday 5 all but sealed their fate. It left Atlético needing to beat section winners Bayer 04 Leverkusen and hope Aris slipped up against Rosenborg BK – neither happened.
Braga − Little was expected of the Minho team when they dropped into the competition from the UEFA Champions League, but they soon illustrated their credentials with a last-16 triumph against three-time winners Liverpool FC. FC Dynamo Kyiv and SL Benifca were subsequently beaten only for FC Porto to dash any hope of rounding off their best continental campaign in style.
Closest of rivals − The final was contested between two clubs situated less than 50km apart. That broke the record set by KV Mechelen and PSV Eindhoven in 1988. The Belgian outfit faced their Dutch neighbours in a two-legged UEFA Super Cup, Mechelen winning 3-0 at home before making the short 83.8km trip to the Netherlands, where they limited the European champions to a 1-0 triumph.
Draws (3-3) − Juventus and KKS Lech Poznań set the ball rolling on Matchday 1 in what was the first of four six-goal draws in the group stage. If it was comebacks you wanted, however, then SSC Napoli were the team to follow. The Azzurri were involved in two of the best, recovering from three goals down at ten-man FC Steaua Bucureşti before an Edinson Cavani hat-trick inspired a fightback from 3-1 behind at FC Utrecht. AC Sparta Praha and FC Lausanne-Sport produced the other 3-3 draw.
Eremenko − The Dynamo Kyiv midfielder topped the assist charts with six in 12 appearances, some feat considering his team exited the competition in the quarter-finals. Roman Eremenko proved particularly influential on Matchday 4 as he set up both goals in a 2-0 home win against AZ Alkmaar.
Falcao − Porto's goal machine was in irresistible form as Villarreal CF, in particular, will testify. His four-goal haul at home to the Yellow Submarine in the semi-final first leg was his third hat-trick of the tournament following previous trebles against SK Rapid Wien (3-1) and FC Spartak Moskva (5-1).
His second-leg strike at Villarreal – his 16th of the campaign - broke Jürgen Klinsmann's 15-year-old record for goals in a single UEFA Europa League or UEFA Cup season. Somewhat predictably he also scored in the final.
Group F − The aforementioned draw between Sparta and Lausanne was responsible for six of the 42 goals scored in the section – the highest of the 12 groups. On average each game in the pool, which was won by PFC CSKA Moskva and also featured US Città di Palermo, yielded 3.5 goals.
Hat-tricks − Aside from Falcao's exploits, six other players walked away with a match ball. Of the nine trebles from the group stage onwards, three were scored on Matchday 1 – by Artjoms Rudņevs (Juventus 3-3 Lech), Patrick Helmes (Leverkusen 4-0 Rosenborg) and Aleksandr Kerzhakov (RSC Anderlecht 1-3 FC Zenit St Petersburg).
Emmanuel Adebyaor (Manchester City FC 3-1 Lech), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool FC 3-1 Napoli), and Cavani (Utrecht 3-3 Napoli) were responsible for the others.
Italy − Napoli's 2-1 aggregate defeat by Villarreal in the round of 32 meant for the first time since 2007 Italy had no representation in the last 16. Serie A's other hopefuls – Juventus, Palermo and UC Sampdoria – failed to negotiate their way through the group stage.
Juventus − La Vecchia Signora's shortcoming was their penchant for draws: indeed, all six of their Group A matches finished in stalemate. The Bianconeri are not the first team to have done that, however, for AEK Athens FC broke new ground when they did so in the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League first group stage.
Karpaty 3-4 Dortmund – Along with Spartak's 5-2 loss to Porto, this was the highest scoring game (group stage to final). Yet for so long it looked like being FC Karpaty Lviv's night, the hosts having comeback from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 going into the last four minutes.
Late goals − One hundred of the 551 goals were scored between the 76th and 90th minutes, though perhaps none later than Cavani's effort eight minutes into added time in Napoli's 3-3 draw with Steaua.
Milevskiy− Artem Milevskiy was a marked man. The Dynamo striker, a scorer of five goals, was fouled an astonishing 46 times in 11 outings, eight more than Braga forward Alan.
No extra time − Was not required in any match in the knockout phase.
One-nation final − The Dublin decider between Portuguese rivals Braga and Porto was the eighthfinal contested by teams from the same national association.
Portugal − Three clubs from Portugal reached the last four of a UEFA competition for the first time. Moreover, Porto emphatically ensured Villarreal would not prevent an all-Liga final, thereby guaranteeing the Iberian nation its eighth UEFA club honour.
Queen Elizabeth II − The build-up to the final had to share the limelight with coverage of the the first visit of a British monarch to Ireland for a century as her majesty embarked upon a week-long tour.
Republic of Ireland − Ireland hosted a major European club final for the first time, Porto's 1-0 victory crowning a historic first full season for the 50,000-seat Dublin Arena.
Stuttgart−VfB Stuttgart defied their domestic form by reaching the last 32. In contrast to the Bundesliga, where their worst start to a season cost Christian Gross his job, the Swabian side topped Group H with an impressive tally of 15 points.
Tauras 3-2 Llanelli−This first qualifying round second leg between Lithuania's FK Tauras and Welsh side Llanelli AFC had the unwanted distinction of not only being the game with the most red cards (three, two of which were received by the visitors) but also the highest number of cautions: 14.
Unbeaten at home − Aris's hopes may have ended in the round of 32 against Manchester City, but they at least bowed out with their long unbeaten home record intact. In 40 years – and 25 home games in UEFA club competition – no visiting team has triumphed at the Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium.
Villas-Boas− André Villas-Boas became the youngest coach − at 33 years and 213 days old − to win a major UEFA club competition when Porto prevailed in Dublin. The former A. Académica de Coimbra trainer, in his first full season as a coach, broke Gianluca Vialli's record. The Italian was 33 years and 308 days when he led Chelsea FC to the 1997/98 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
Warm-weather clothing − Was a must at many stadiums in the group stage and beyond. Sub-zero temperatures made for challenging playing conditions at many a stadium, including in Poznan, where the mercury plummeted to -11C for Lech's 1-1 draw with Juventus.
Xäzär Länkäran FK− The Azerbaijani outfit were one of 52 teams who embarked upon the road to Dublin in the first qualifying round. Sadly for them, their hopes were over almost as soon as they had begun following an away-goals defeat by Moldova's FC Olimpia Balti.
Young Boys at Getafe− The fact there was nothing riding on this Group H encounter did little to detract from the entertainment value. Fans at the Matchday 6 fixture witnessed an extraordinary 22 shots on target over the 90 minutes − the joint highest in the tournament (qualifying included). Remarkably there was just one goal, scored by Getafe CF's Adrián Sardinero.
Zenit− The 2008 UEFA Cup winners were the only team to emerge from the group stage with a 100% record, their six matches producing as many wins and 18 goals scored.