Sevilla aims for unprecedented treble

Sevilla became the second team to retain the UEFA Cup on Wednesday and next on the agenda is a record all of its own.

updated: May 18, 2007 16:27 IST
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Glasgow, England:

Sevilla became the second team to retain the UEFA Cup on Wednesday and next on the agenda is a record all of its own.

The 3-1 penalty shootout win over Espanyol after a 2-2 draw matched Real Madrid's 1986 feat of hanging on to Europe's second most prestigious club title. It also set up the Andalusian club for a treble unprecedented in Spanish soccer.

The team is just two points off the lead in the Spanish league with four games to play, and has already qualified for the June 23 Copa del Rey final against Getafe.

Winning all three has always been beyond the reach of teams as illustrious as Madrid and FC Barcelona. And Wednesday's success against Espanyol has already showed Sevilla's 4-0 win over England's Middlesbrough in last year's final was no fluke.

"The season has already been successful thanks to this victory," coach Juande Ramos said. "Our players are in high spirits and we can tackle the league and the Copa del Rey."

Sevilla's fans will head into the remainder of the Spanish season with renewed confidence after watching their team withstand heavy pressure and twice recover from losing the lead.

Sevilla's players kept their nerve in the shootout to send their fans wild and suggest that a first league title for 61 years and first Copa del Rey for 49 are real possibilities.

"I'm proud, I'm happy and satisfied to be champion for the second time," Ramos said. "Knowing how tough it is and how many great teams there are in Europe, for a team like Sevilla, we must enjoy this performance. It has been a great year for us."

The season started with another win over a Spanish side in Europe - a 3-0 win over Espanyol's city rival FC Barcelona in the Super Cup.

Ramos is a coach in demand after his feats with Sevilla but said he would likely be in charge for the next Super Cup encounter, at the start of next season against the winner of next week's Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool.

"We're happy with the way things are, why should it not be that way?" he said. "I think it's perfectly normal that I should be there for the Super Cup final."

All-Spanish final

Although the first all-Spanish UEFA Cup final was played in distinctly un-Iberian conditions, steady rain and unseasonably cool temperatures provided a slick surface that lent itself to a quick passing game that showcased the best of Spanish soccer.

Sevilla drew on its raucous support and an inspired goalkeeper to draw 1-1 after 90 minutes and 2-2 after an extra 30.

Andres Palop added to an already impressive performance by saving three penalty kicks in a 3-1 shootout win, and the fervor it inspired among more than 15,000 fans filling an entire end of the Glasgow stadium gave an indication of the acclaim that could meet further success by Sevilla.

When they weren't chanting themselves, the red-clad Sevilla fans jeered the Espanyol followers for swinging their blue scarves and singing songs honoring their club.

Throughout more than two hours of soccer, they never fell silent until the shootout.

"I'm very happy and it's good in front of these fans to get the title," Palop said. "Thank heavens the cup is coming back to Sevilla. I want Sevilla's name to sound strongly over Europe."