Sevilla FC were first to four, Alan banged them in, Denys Boyko kept them out, Erik Lamela was sublime, FC København "ridiculous": we review the UEFA Europa League season.
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Twelve months on from lifting the UEFA Europa League trophy in Turin, Sevilla FC did it again in Warsaw: in between there was a roller coaster of a tournament that threw up new heroes and confirmed the reputation of others. UEFA.com reviews the campaign.
Team: Sevilla FC
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's 19-game odyssey from UEFA Champions League third qualifying round to maiden European final was superb, but it is hard to look beyond the team that beat them 3-2 in Warsaw. Sevilla are the first side to lift this trophy four times (rather like their skipper José Antonio Reyes), successfully defending it as they did in 2007.
They won 11 and lost just one of their 15 fixtures, scoring a competition-leading 29 goals in matches that produced 43 overall and showed a tactical fluidity with the star performer sometimes Daniel Carriço at the back, Éver Banega in midfield or Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro up front. "We weren't casual on the pitch, we were incredibly focused on our task," said final man of the match Banega.
Player (group stage): Alan (FC Salzburg)
The Brazilian forward actually left Salzburg after the group stage for China's Guangzhou Evergrande FC, but such was Alan's prolific autumnal form that his tally of eight goals in five games left him as competition joint-top scorer with Everton FC's Romelu Lukaku.
In fact, eight goals is a record for the UEFA Europa League or UEFA Cup group phase and it is the first time its leading marksman played no part in the knockout rounds, Salzburg perhaps missing him as they departed in the round of 32 against Villarreal CF. Alan, 25, has so far been unable to make the same impact in the AFC Champions League after rupturing cruciate knee ligaments before Guangzhou faced Western Sydney Warriors in March.
Player (knockout rounds): Denys Boyko (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk)
To concede only ten goals in a 17-game UEFA Europa League run is impressive stuff, with five of Dnipro's eight clean sheets coming in the knockouts. Sevilla may have been able to find a way past him three times in Warsaw, but goalkeeper Boyko was excellent throughout the tournament. If Dnipro's success was partly down to Myron Markevych's astute tactics, at times it also hinged on Boyko's brilliance, most notably in the epic semi-final with otherwise free-scoring SSC Napoli. "I did not feel any pressure whatsoever – quite the opposite," the 27-year-old told UEFA.com.
Goal: Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur FC)
Tottenham cruised to a 5-1 win against Asteras Tripolis FC in their third group game, where a hat-trick from strike sensation Harry Kane was eclipsed by the first of Lamela's two goals. Picking up a loose ball on the edge of the box, Lamela brought his left foot behind his right to power in an outrageous 'rabona' finish.
"Erik's goal was the best I have seen live or on television, without a doubt, 100%," said team-mate Jan Vertonghen. "I still can't believe it and will watch it lots of times over." Press play on the video box to the right and go to 00:58 to see for yourself ...
Performance: SSC Napoli at VfL Wolfsburg
Dnipro's journey was special yet the result with the biggest 'wow' factor of the competition has to be Napoli's 4-1 quarter-final first-leg demolition of Wolfsburg, many people's favourites to land the trophy and heading for the UEFA Champions League next term from the Bundesliga.
It was 2-0 early on through Gonzalo Higuaínand Marek Hamšík, who scored again prior to a Manolo Gabbiadini strike. While Nicklas Bendtner pulled one back, it was an exceedingly happy day to turn 55 for Napoli coach Rafael Benítez, who said: "It is a nice birthday present for me and a historically good thing for our club as well." A 2-2 home draw confirmed Napoli's semi-final berth.
Quote: "The entire group stage has been ridiculous for us."
FC København coach Ståle Solbakken not holding back after the concluding 5-1 home loss to Torino FC that left top-seeded FCK finishing bottom of Group B with four points.
Moment: Yevhen Shakhov (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk)
This moment actually comes from before the competition proper. Dnipro had already gone out of the UEFA Champions League in the third qualifying round to Solbakken's FCK and had come from behind to sit at 1-1 in their play-off first leg at home to HNK Hajduk Split in Kyiv. With two minutes left Shakhov found the target to reward Dnipro's dominance with a 2-1 victory; they drew 0-0 in Croatia and a mere 14 matches later were in their first European final.
The crowd for FC Dynamo Kyiv's 5-2 round of 16 second-leg success over Everton at the NSK Olimpiyskyi stadium was a record for the UEFA Europa League since it replaced the UEFA Cup in 2009, eclipsing the 67,328 at Manchester United FC v AFC Ajax in the 2011/12 round of 32.
The attendance of 65,535 for Dynamo's quarter-final with ACF Fiorentina is third in the all-time standings, and the other two slots in the top five are also from this campaign, Beşiktaş JK's home games with Club Brugge KV (65,110) and Liverpool FC (63,324) at Istanbul's Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadı. Throw in the Dnipro v Napoli semi-final in Kyiv (62,344, seventh) and Celtic FC against FC Internazionale Milano in the round of 32 (58,500, tenth), and six of the all-time top ten UEFA Europa League crowds were set this season.
Photo: Aleix Vidal shows off Sevilla's trophy