Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Sevilla Soldier On In The Race For Champions League

Just a few months ago everything was looking rosy at the Sanchez Pizjuan. Jorge Sampaoli had his Sevilla side playing scintillating football. In late February, they beat their local rivals Real Betis 2-1 to move level on points with table-topping Real Madrid, having beaten Leicester City in the first leg of their Round of 16 Champions League tie just a few days before.

Sampaoli was being praised to the rafters and was being anointed by some as the man to take over at Barcelona. The press was talking about a side that could challenge for La Liga and perhaps even be a dark horse in the Champions League.

Unfortunately, the Sevillianos’ poor results have seen them fade from the title picture and get knocked out of the Champions League.

A 2-0 defeat against Leicester, coupled with a poor run of form, has turned their season from a push towards silverware into a battle for a place in the top four.

Two nights ago, they faced a Celta Vigo side buoyed by reaching the Europa League semi-finals.

Sevilla hoped to keep up the pressure on third-placed Atletico Madrid and tighten their grip on the final Champions League place. They sat five points ahead of fifth-placed Villarreal, with the match serving as a game in hand.

A win would put them eight points clear with only four games left, putting them in total control of that final spot.

Celta have had an inconsistent season with great successes in cup competitions reaching a European semi-final and advancing to the semi-final of the Copa Del Rey before falling to Alaves.

However, they sit eleventh in the league, which is slightly disappointing considering their sixth-placed finish last season.

The game was played against the backdrop of speculation over Sampaoli’s future. The Argentine coach was apparently in advanced talks with the AFA to take over the vacant Argentina role. His side began the game under a degree of pressure, with Celta probing and pressuring his defence.

However, Sevilla came the closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half, with Clement Lenglet’s header hitting the base of the post. Celta felt they should have had the penalty when Sisto’s header hit the Sevilla captain Vincent Iborra on the arm, but nothing was given.

The game really sparked to life in the second half when Joaquin Correa danced around two Celta defenders and smashed the ball into the top right-hand corner to give Sevilla the lead in the 49th minute.

Celta, however, weren’t behind for long, Lenglet held back Celta striker John Guidetti in the box, and the ref pointed to the spot. Iago Aspas, once of Liverpool, stepped up and stroked the ball home to make it 1-1.

Just three minutes later, a rash challenge by Celta’s Pablo Hernandez saw him receive a second yellow, and with Celta down to ten men, Sevilla pushed for a winner. After hitting the crossbar not once but twice, they finally broke through. Samir Nasri beat Andreu Fontas on the left wing and sent in a low cross, which Ben Yedder poked home to secure a 2-1 win for Sevilla.

So while the Andalusian’s season might not end with a trophy, a place in the Champions League looks likely, which would satisfy most in Seville.

Celta’s season’s success rests on their Europa League semi-final with Manchester United, where they will hope to perform better than they did against Sevilla.

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