As the dust settled on Sevilla FC's frantic 2-1 comeback win over FC Zenit in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg, Nick Aitken, reporting for UEFA.com, gave his verdict.
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Seville fortress unbreached
Going into Thursday's game, Sevilla FC were on a run of seven consecutive home victories in the UEFA Europa League, as well as 32 unbeaten home matches in all competitions, the latter record stretching back to 14 March 2014 and their 2-0 reverse to neighbours Real Betis Balompié in last season's round of 16. Yet they were given a shock when FC Zenit's Aleksandr Ryazantsev struck just before the half-hour and, for much of the ensuing 44 minutes, that undefeated sequence appeared in serious danger – until goals in the final 20 minutes from Carlos Bacca and Denis Suárez turned the quarter-final first-leg scoreline on its head.
Suárez turns on the style
On target after coming on a substitute against Villarreal FC in the last 16 second leg, Sevilla's on-loan FC Barcelona schemer Suárez was at it again versus Zenit, and in truly spectacular fashion. After a ball dropped to him on the edge of the box following a corner on 88 minutes, the 21-year-old midfielder set himself before lashing a splendid volley into the far corner of Yuri Lodygin's net.
Reyes has still got it, or has he?
Second (or third?) fiddle to Unai Emery's hard-running wide men Vitolo and Aleix Vidal, José Antonio Reyes is rarely handed a full 90 minutes nowadays, despite the talent that has brought him winners' medals in the Premier League, Liga and UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League – twice. Entrusted with a starting berth and the captain's armband, the local boy provided a neat flick here, quick feet there, yet it was not until the second period that he showed a willingness to really drive his team back into the contest.
Necessity breeds invention for Zenit
Zenit coach André Villas-Boas had warned pre-game that "this will be a very difficult match for us", though the Russian Premier-Liga leaders were calm, unruffled and played like a side with a clear plan. If they eventually came unstuck in the face of Sevilla's frenzied second-half pressure, the return from suspension of Hulk, Danny, Igor Smolnikov and Domenico Criscito, allied to what is sure to be a fiery atmosphere at the Stadion Petrovski, means the holders can expect the sternest of tests come the second leg.
Bacca tips the balance
For all the many merits of Kevin Gameiro, which include speed, opportunism and persistence, Bacca is arguably a cut above, evidenced by 17 Liga strikes this term, and the Colombian international's introduction helped finally unsettle Zenit's solid central defensive duo of Ezequiel Garay and skipper Nicolas Lombaerts. In perpetual motion, constantly chasing a sight of goal, Bacca netted Sevilla's equaliser with an opportunistic header and only uncharacteristic indecisiveness prevented him making it 3-1 at the death.