Five great Europa League and UEFA Cup finals
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Goals, drama, star performances; were these the best of the 24 one-legged deciders to date?
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Since 1998, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League final has been decided over one leg, nine of the 24 deciders going to extra time and five all the way to penalties. There were 77 goals in those matches, coming at an impressive average of 3.2 goals per game.
There is a lot of competition, but are these the best five of those all-action deciders?
1998: Lazio 0-3 Inter
Zamorano 5, Zanetti 60, Ronaldo 70
Parc des Princes, Paris
A repeat of the two-legged 1991 final ended in Inter's third UEFA Cup triumph in a decade. Javier Zanetti set up Iván Zamorano for the early opener, the same pair combining for goal number two, before 21-year-old superstar Ronaldo took centre stage, rounding Luca Marchegiani and making it 3-0 on the night.
"Lazio had an incredible side," the Brazilian remembered. "Every once in a while I watch that match again. What a game!"
2001: Liverpool 5-4 Alavés (aet)
Babbel 3, Gerrard 16, McAllister 40p, Fowler 72, Geli 116og; Alonso 26, Moreno 47 49, Cruyff 88
"In the first half, things couldn’t have been any better,” recalled Liverpool’s Dietmar Hamann, whose side were blown off course after twice leading by two goals in the highest-scoring UEFA Cup final of all.
José Manuel Esnal’s unfancied Alavés made it 4-4 on 88 minutes, but salvation came from an unlikely source for Gérard Houllier’s side, Delfi Geli heading an extra-time golden goal into his own net to stop the clock.
2003: Celtic 2-3 Porto (aet)
Larsson 47 57; Derlei 45 115, Alenichev 54
Olimpico Stadium, Seville
Victorious Porto boss José Mourinho – then 40 – rated the Seville decider as "a great example to those who love football", and losing manager Martin O’Neill agreed saying: "This was a wonderful, wonderful experience."
Derlei won the match with the only silver goal in UEFA Cup final history, but the star of the show was midfielder Deco, who drifted left and right, causing endless problems for the Scottish side.
2007: Espanyol 2-2 Sevilla (aet, Sevilla win 3-1 on pens)
Riera 28, Jônatas 115; Adriano 18, Kanouté 105
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Sevilla became the second side to defend the UEFA Cup, following Real Madrid’s 1985 and 1986 successes. But Juande Ramos' side had to battle all the way, and were grateful to goalkeeper Andrés Palop, who set up their opener with a long throw, and saved from Luis García, Jônatas and Marc Torrejón in the shoot-out.
"[Sevilla's] goalkeeper, an outstanding player, made the difference," said gracious Espanyol boss Ernesto Valverde.
2016: Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla
Sturridge 35; Gameiro 46, Coke 64 70
St. Jakob-Park, Basel
With Sevilla targeting a fifth title and Liverpool their fourth, Daniel Sturridge put the Reds ahead, but Unai Emery’s side were revived by a goal just after the break before captain Coke struck twice to complete the turnaround.
"We love this competition," said Emery as his side made it three successes in a row. "It's our competition." Thwarted in his first season at Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp said: "We are disappointed, frustrated, but we will use this." And they did.