Frédéric Kanouté says Sevilla FC will only get better after a confidence-boosting 2-2 draw against German high-fliers Borussia Dortmund earned their place in the knockout phase.
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Sevilla FC forward Frédéric Kanouté believes his side are "the team to beat" in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase after a 2-2 draw against Borussia Dortmund earned Los Rojiblancos the runners-up spot in Group J.
Gregorio Manzano's side went into their final game in the section against the Bundesliga leaders aware that avoiding defeat would send them through to February's round of 32 along with Paris Saint-Germain FC. Low on confidence due to a poor run of form, however, the home side's hopes were hit by Shinji Kagawa's fourth-minute opener. It was at that moment – Kanouté later explained – that he and his team-mates "were desperate to show what we were truly capable of".
A determined Ndri Romaric made up for an earlier miss by stroking home the equaliser in the 31st minute then Kanouté then sent a glancing header gliding past visiting goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller shortly afterwards to put his team ahead. "We knew the game was of vital importance to our season and that staying in the tournament would mean we were still fighting for another trophy," the Mali forward said.
The happy faces emerging from the home dressing room after the encounter belied the tense finish at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan caused by Neven Subotić's second-half header. Yet with morale now rising ahead of Friday's draw Kanouté says the Liga side will improve as the season progresses.
"What we achieved tonight is going to give us a lot of confidence," the former Tottenham Hotspur FC player said. "It will help us to get better going into our next games. It's not a case of moving up from a low level as this team is already a great one, it's that we have to work hard everyday to get back to the level we were at before."
Kanouté paid special praise to the club's fans who provided their team with "fantastic" support. "Tonight they reminded us of what it was like in the best times but we want to tell them we're not finished yet,"
the striker assured.
Also praising the local support was Dortmund defender Mats Hummels who told UEFA.com it was difficult to compete with a tricky attacker and stands full of noise. "We knew we were in for an emotional match from the beginning," the 21-year-old explained.
"As we were coming on to the field we could hear their fans passionately singing the club's song; it made quite an impact. We wanted to win but it was so difficult to play here in an electric atmosphere and against Kanouté who was in particularly good form. When you go behind to a team who are of Champions League standard it's hard to come back.