UEFA Europa League Classics: Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Sevilla

The background on an absorbing 2015/16 UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg before you watch it on UEFA.tv.

Sevilla have made the UEFA Europa League their own over the years but progress hasn't always been smooth – we look back at just one of the obstacles they've had to overcome along the way.

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Context

Sevilla's record in the UEFA Europa League is remarkable. The Andalusian side had been more thereabouts than there in Spain, with a solitary domestic championship from 1945/46, but Thursday nights awakened the beast within. In 2015/16 they were chasing a fifth title in 11 seasons and third in a row – records both. They were favourites to reach the final yet, in the wily Mircea Lucescu and Brazilian-accented Shakhtar, they encountered last-four opponents who knew something about lifting this trophy too.

Watch classic Sevilla v Betis clash from 2014
Watch classic Sevilla v Betis clash from 2014

Key players

Kevin Gameiro A forward with good awareness, anticipation and reading of the game, the diminutive former Paris Saint-Germain man was in the form of his life in 2015/16.

Marlos The midwinter departure of Alex Teixeira had left a gaping hole in the Shakhtar ranks (three months on he remained, by a distance, their top scorer), but Brazilian Marlos was beginning to assume the creative mantle.

Vitolo A hard-running winger who made his name at home-town club Las Palmas and saved his best for the UEFA Europa League, winning four titles with Sevilla and Atlético Madrid.

Luiz Adriano looks back on Shakhtar's 2009 glory
Luiz Adriano looks back on Shakhtar's 2009 glory

What happened

Shakhtar went into the game with cries of "revenge" ringing in their ears following the teams' sensational 2006/07 tie but their start in Lviv was more of a whimper – and they were soon behind as Vitolo found the net. It was the wake-up call the Ukrainian side needed, and midway through the first half Marlos levelled with a beautifully-taken strike, of which the watching Andriy Shevchenko would have approved.

Marlos then turned provider, leaving Éver Banega on his knees with an outrageous shimmy and whipping in a cross for Taras Stepanenko to power home. Sevilla were rocking. However, the Pitmen opted to dig in and slowly they were pushed back until, eight minutes from time, Facundo Ferreyra brought down Vitolo and Gameiro converted from the spot.

2015/16 Europa League: Top ten goals
2015/16 Europa League: Top ten goals

Reaction

Vitolo, Sevilla winger: "Shakhtar have some great players and we suffered. We never gave up, though, and the late goal was a great reward that puts us in a good position. The coach always tells us to stay calm and wait for our moment and he got it right."

Unai Emery, Sevilla coach: "Both teams showed that they deserve to be in the semi-finals. The tie is still very open, it's 50-50. We will have to be at our very best in the return if we are to progress."

Mircea Lucescu, Shakhtar coach: "We had a very good first half but failed to convert several counterattacks. Our biggest mistake, though, was that in the second period we sat back on our 2-1 lead, content to keep it that way until the end. It will be a difficult second leg."

Elsewhere that night

The other semi brought a meeting between Spain's Yellow Submarine and a club from the English city that launched the vivid submersible: Villarreal versus Liverpool. The Reds endured a sluggish start under Jürgen Klopp but were 12 matches unbeaten in the UEFA Europa League until substitute Adrián López won it at the death for the hosts, who also hit the post through Cédric Bakambu.

Sevilla's five Europa League triumphs
Sevilla's five Europa League triumphs

Aftermath

Sevilla were on top from the off when the action resumed in Spain a week later, two Gameiro strikes and a Mariano Ferreira beauty ultimately steering Emery's side into a third successive UEFA Europa League final. There they faced Liverpool, 3-0 victors over Villarreal in their own second leg. Sevilla's experience saw them through, Gameiro scoring before a Coke double as they came from behind to complete a hat-trick of wins. Liverpool wouldn't have to wait too much longer for European silverware.