The Europa League holders, Sevilla, will not compete in the competition this year after losing 2-1 to Lens to leave them fourth in their group. Sevilla went into the game having not won a Champions League away game in the previous 15 attempts, and their current run of form didn’t suggest that they would be able to put an end to the unwanted streak.
Lens, after having a poor start to their league campaign, have risen again and are back to being the formidable team that we saw last year. Sevilla needed nothing less than a win and the three points to qualify for this year’s Europa League, with the last 16 of the Champions League already unattainable. Victor Orta, Sevilla’s sporting director, spoke before the match of needing results, as Diego Alonso’s future at the club hangs by a thread. Here, he had a chance to prove that he was a man and take his team into round 32 of the Europa League, a competition they have won seven times.
The away side were treated with another fantastic home atmosphere that puts fear into any team. However, it was Sevilla who started off the better team in the first half as the home team struggled to get going. In a half of few chances, Lens goalkeeper Brice Samba pulled off an impressive save to deny Ivan Rakitic. It was ultimately a cagey half as the game quickly went into inertia as Sevilla were unable to find the final pass time and time again.
The second half left off where the first ended, with Sevilla on top and Lens still creating little. It wasn’t until the 60th minute that the game sparked to life after Lens were awarded a penalty after Boubakary Soumaré bundled over Facundo Medina. Przemysław Frankowski converted the penalty to put the home side ahead. With Sevilla now needing two goals, the game quickly rose in tempo. The away side got a penalty of their own, with Medina involved again. The defender brought down Youssef En-Nesyri to give the away side hope. After a VAR check, Sergio Ramos stepped up and missed as the goalkeeper guessed the right way. His effort was in vain, though, as he was adjudged to have stepped off his line, giving Ramos a second chance. This one he didn’t miss. He audaciously chipped the ball right under the roof of the net to draw his side level. Ten minutes to find a goal.
Sevilla continued to push. The best chance came to the goalscorer, but he couldn’t keep his shot down. Instead, it was Lens who found the second goal after Angelo Fulgini scored from a counter.
Sevilla are out, while Lens continue their European journey after 15 years of absence. Diego Alonso suffers yet another defeat. They will now likely be out of Europe for this year and the next, barring an unprecedented comeback in the league.
GSFN | Finn Entwistle