By Toby Davis
Sevilla retained their Europa League title to claim the trophy for a record fourth time with a 3-2 victory over plucky Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk thanks to Carlos Bacca’s double in an exciting final on Wednesday.
Colombia striker Bacca netted the winner with 17 minutes left to seal victory at Warsaw’s National Stadium after a pulsating first half in which four goals were scored as the teams went into the dressing rooms on level terms.
It was an end-to-end battle for most of the match with Dnipro grabbing an early lead through Nikola Kalinic before Sevilla hit back with goals by Grzegorz Krychowiak and Bacca.
When Dnipro captain Ruslan Rotan curled home a precise freekick to make it 2-2 just before the beak it looked like the Ukrainians, who were playing in their first European final, might go on to cause a stunning upset.
But Bacca grabbed his second goal late on to settle the encounter and secure a Champions League qualifying place which is handed to the winners for the first time.
Predictions that this would be a cagey encounter with Dnipro deploying players behind the ball in the hope of frustrating Sevilla’s free-scoring forwards were swiftly confounded as both teams tore into each with ferocity from the start.
Within minutes of the kickoff Sevilla’s captain for the night Jose Antonio Reyes had a penalty appeal turned down when he was felled on the turn before Dnipro landed the first blow after seven minutes.
A chip forward found Kalinic and he headed the ball deftly into the path of Brazilian winger Matheus, whose precise cross was met by the Croatia target man on the charge to head low into the net past the sprawling dive of Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico.
That seemed to spark some life into the wounded Spaniards who tested their shooting range with blocked efforts from Vitolo and Reyes, before Krychowiak drew them level after 28 minutes.
The Poland international raised the roof off the stadium in his home country when he received Bacca’s knockdown, took a touch to get the ball out of his feet and drove his finish through several Dnipro bodies into the net.
Within three minutes Sevilla were ahead as Reyes set Bacca clear with a perfectly weighted through ball and the Colombian rounded keeper Denys Boyko before calmly slotting home.
That could have proved a devastating psychological blow to Dnipro, but the rugged Ukrainians are made of stern stuff and they equalised before the break through Rotan’s superb curling freekick that looped delicately over the wall and into the net.
The second half was a much nervier affair with Sevilla’s Stephane Mbia and Krychowiak failing to capitalise on half chances before Sevilla struck the decisive blow.
Vitolo’s flicked pass found Bacca who managed to stay onside as he turned in the area and drilled the ball home.