Copa del Rey Final: Sevilla 2 Atletico Madrid 0
The magnificent surroundings of the Camp Nou provided the backdrop for a rather grand party on Sunday night as Barcelona clinched their twentieth La Liga title. And this coming Saturday, events at the Santiago Bernabeu will determine whether it will be Bayern Munich or Inter Milan that take Barca’s European Cup from them. We are certainly at the business end of the season now and Wednesday night saw Sevilla and Atletico Madrid do battle in Catalonia for the right to be crowned Copa del Rey winners.
Antonio Alvarez’s Sevilla went into the game having only secured their place in next season’s Champions League in the dying moments of their final game at Almeria. Atletico ended their league campaign on a low note with a 3-0 defeat at home to neighbouring Getafe but Quique Sanchez Flores fielded a much-changed side with one eye on the Camp Nou. Could Atletico add the domestic cup to the Europa League success they achieved in Hamburg seven days previously?
Five minutes into the game, Sevilla’s busy left-winger Diego Capel ensured the Madrid side suffered a nightmare start, lashing the ball past David De Gea from the edge of the box after a Jesus Navas shot was blocked.
Not a team to be fazed by an early concession, however, Atletico piled forward in search of a quick riposte. They came extremely close when Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan both saw shots blocked following good work down the right from Jose Antonio Reyes.
English onlookers are quick to point out Forlan’s transformation into one of the most deadly strikers in Europe following his earlier failure at Manchester United. In addition, Reyes clearly looks the player that Arsenal were expecting to develop during his spell in North London. Perhaps equally remarkable is the fact that Sevilla’s African duo Fredi Kanoute and Didier Zokora have both made far more of an impact in Andalucia than they managed during their time at White Hart Lane.
Zokora’s style, in particular, suits Sevilla down to the ground and his energetic closing-down was vital to their half[-time lead. The Ivorian’s workrate lightens the load on Capel and Navas, both of whom are released to create further up the pitch and both of whom were involved in the only goal of the first period.
With both sets of fans creating a red-and-white cauldron inside the Camp Nou, Sevilla settled into their stride more quickly after the interval and should have doubled the lead just before the hour mark. Fredi Kanoute’s precise backheel provided Alvaro Negredo with the easiest chance of the game but the former Almeria man put his shot straight at De Gea. Romaric soon replaced Negredo as Sevilla sought to add steel to their midfield.
With twenty minutes remaining, Atletico opened their opponents up beautifully, only for Aguero’s cut-back to be cleared behind. When the resulting corner was repelled, Capel hared away down the left before his progress was halted by a full-blooded tackle from Luis Perea. Both benches got involved in debating the fairness of the Colombian’s challenge and there was a short delay to the game as order was restored.
A fired-up Atletico, with Jose Manuel Jurado and Raul Garcia on to add fresh legs, went forward again and Forlan saw a dipping volley well tipped over by Andres Palop. The Sevilla goalkeeper was attempting to punch every high ball into the box or cross from wide areas and he almost paid for it five minutes from the end when he fisted the ball straight to Raul Garcia on the edge of the box. Garcia’s shot went wide, though, with Tiago unable to turn it goalwards while retreating.
As the capital club grew increasingly desperate, Sevilla made sure of the trophy in injury time. The lightning-quick Navas skipped away from Alvaro Dominguez on the halfway line and scampered towards goal. De Gea came out to close the angle but Navas was too quick for the young keeper, rounding him before finding the net despite Dominguez’s last-ditch attempt to clear off the line.
Sevilla and Atletico Madrid end the season with one cup apiece after Atleti’s Europa League final win over Fulham. The Atleti fans greeted the final whistle with defiant chanting and scarf-waving. It was Sevilla’s night at the Camp Nou, though, and their celebrations were fully deserved.