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Underdogs have their day

Sevilla FC proved that reputations count for nothing when national rivalry is at stake in a European event by brilliantly beating FC Barcelona.

Reputations count for nothing when national rivalry is at stake in a major European competition. UEFA Cup winners Sevilla FC made a mockery of their underdog billing to humble compatriots FC Barcelona to capture the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco. Indeed, only the most hardened Barça supporter could surely bridle at the justice of the outcome; Sevilla simply bristled with brilliance.

Showpiece atmosphere
There are critics who may consider the UEFA Super Cup match to be a glorified pre-season friendly. The raucous pre-match atmosphere on a warm late summer's evening at a packed Stade Louis II put paid to that theory as Catalans from Barcelona and Andalusians from Seville gave full vent to their voices. Two proud Spanish regions were clearly determined to enjoy this showpiece occasion.

Stars colliding
At the UEFA awards ceremonies in Monaco this week, Ronaldinho had captured the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year prize. The Brazilian's award meant that the two best players in last season's UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup, Sevilla's Daniel Alves, were directly opposed in one of the evening's more fascinating confrontations. Excitement was in the air in a blistering opening and Sevilla, calm and confident, pushed Barça back on their heels to gain the initiative and the vital breakthrough through Renato - making it 'game on' after only seven minutes.

Sevilla threat
Despite increasing possession, Barça and Ronaldinho were largely a blunt attacking force as the half wore on. Sevilla, prompted by the superb man of the match Daniel Alves and tireless front-runner Luis Fabiano, were tenacious in the tackle, and a perpetual threat on the counterattack, and doubled their lead right on the break as Frédéric Kanouté deftly flicked in Jesús Navas' equally astute header. The Sevilla hordes were beside themselves with joy, making the stadium a riot of colour just as they had in Eindhoven in May.

Industry pays
Tough talking would have been the order of the day from Barça coach Frank Rijkaard at the break. His attacking talismen Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o had fired blanks in the first 45 minutes, but there was precious little change to the game's shape after the interval. Sevilla, industrious and talented, had a burning desire for further European glory after claiming their first continental crown less than four months ago, and Rijkaard's charges were made to suffer a fraught and fruitless evening.

Further embarrassment
Barça's increasingly desperate efforts to get back into the match left them with gaping holes at the back as time wore on, and Sevilla rubbed salt in their wounds by virtue of Enzo Maresca's late penalty. Like the champions they are the Catalan side will soon recover - but a memorable August night in Monaco belonged emphatically to their brave and triumphant brothers from Andalusia.