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Sevilla see off Maribor to seal Europa League progress

Sevilla see off Maribor to seal Europa League progress

Paco Puentes


Goals from Reyes and Gameiro proved enough for Unai Emery's men. Vrsic pulled one back for the visitors in time added on. 'Euroderbi' on 13 and 20 March.

No sooner had José Antonio Reyes opened the scoring – with a goal worthy of any piece of absurd theatre – than the Estado Sánchez Pizjuán began to bounce, accompanied by the news of Real Betis’ goals in Kazan. Seville is buzzing; in one of those unusual quirks of fate, there’ll be a Euroderbi on 13 and 20 March. Following in the footsteps of Madrid, Barcelona, London, Milan and Bucharest, Seville will be the sixth city to host a derby in European competition.

Sevilla’s qualification for the Europa League last 16 proved to be a formality against a Maribor outfit that posed little of the threat evident in the first leg. Quite the opposite: both the hosts’ goals were gifts presented to them by the Slovenians. The first came about when goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic (the cousin of the good one, Inter Milan’s Samir), hit his clearance against Reyes when apparently in little danger – and saw the ball rebound into the net. The guests’ second error, less spectacular but equally as fatal, came about through Arghus. Kevin Gameiro, who has in general been anything but clinical (but on this occasion enjoyed a positive evening’s work), did not let the defender off the hook. Such finishing from the Frenchman has so far been conspicuous by its absence.

2-0 was enough, but Sevilla are a side under the weather. Poorly. For a time, they were an inconsistent, unstable team, with gaps and defensive lapses that made them far from dependable. Despite this, they also had rhythm, spirit and energy, and that permitted some optimism for the immediate future. In the last two months, however, these qualities have vanished. Only Maribor’s naivety prevented greater problems for Unai Emery’s men, who switched off in the first half and have a structural problem with Nicolás Pareja, whose life Jean Philippe Mendy – a forward of the lowest order – made very difficult. Such was Emery’s concern that he removed Pareja at half-time and brought on Fazio and Vicente Iborra, two players both one booking from suspension.

For Sevilla, the best thing about the match was that the home crowd were almost as put off as the team were by the academic nature of the encounter. With their thoughts drifting to Betis, the fans gave a departing ovation to a distinctly flat Reyes, simply because he’s a talismanic derby player. Few had bargained on it, but now it’s a reality. Spring is coming and so is a Euroderbi. No one in Seville will want to miss it.

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