"It's going to be a great night," beamed Unai Emery after leading Sevilla FC to the UEFA Europa League final, with SL Benfica's Jorge Jesus noting: "We are in the final on merit."
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The spirit of goalkeeper Andrés Palop, who scored a famous late goal en route to Sevilla FC's 2006/07 UEFA Cup triumph, helped the current side make their way past Valencia CF to the UEFA Europa League final according to coach Unai Emery, whose celebrations following Stéphane Mbia's decisive stoppage-time strike will live long in the memory. Jorge Jesus showed more restraint after a 0-0 draw at Juventus clinched a return to Turin for his SL Benfica team, who he felt had secured their just deserts.
Unai Emery, Sevilla coach
This is an incredible experience. Today, in such a difficult game, our spirit was the only thing that mattered. We had to get it right when we did. We invoked the spirit of Palop, Bakero's goal against Kaiserslautern [in the 1991/92 European Champion Clubs' Cup] or Iniesta's against Chelsea [in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League]. We're so happy. I'm so happy for the whole team. I just let myself go for the celebration. I was just thinking of myself and my players. The spirit of Palop was with us. It drove us on. We had Fazio and Mbia. They appeared at just the right time.
We don't care who we play in the final. We have to enjoy it. We are going to have to beat a good side – they beat Juve, who are a fine team. It's going to be a great night. This type of feeling has to be enjoyed. Having said that, I wish Valencia every success.
Jorge Jesus, Benfica coach
In the first leg Benfica were better and got the win. Today, we pressed high in the first half and did not let their three central defenders organise the game from the back, like they usually do. In the second half, Juventus had more possession, but could not find a way to goal. We deserve to be in the final because we were better than Juventus overall.
To get to the final, you need to know how to battle. We knew we would play a semi-final against a very strong team, and we managed to do what we had to do. In five years, we have got to two UEFA Europa League finals and one semi-final – it is a record that no one can take away from us. We are in the final on merit. In this competition, we are yet to lose a game and we deserve everything that is coming to us.
We will be without three important players in the final [Lazar Marković, Enzo Pérez and Eduardo Salvio are suspended], but for now the important thing is for the team to recover, because we still have two other finals to play [the Portuguese Cup and Portuguese League Cup deciders, both against Rio Ave FC].