Sevilla ended Manchester United’s hopes of capping a successful season with some silverware, running out 2-1 winners in the Europa League semifinal in Cologne on Sunday. It was an open, exciting game, and United created more than enough chances to win. However, they failed to make their opportunities count after Bruno Fernandes’ early opener, and Sevilla made them pay.
European knockout ties are often circumspect affairs, and the coronavirus-enforced one-leg winner-takes-all format threatened to make this game doubly so. But any notion that United’s encounter with the five-time Europa League winners would prove a snoozefest was dispelled within the first eight minutes, when Marcus Rashford was felled in the area by Diego Carlos, and Bruno Fernandes stepped up to slot a brilliant penalty in the top corner for 1-0.
From the outset, both sides looked threatening in attack but shaky in defence, and Fred might have doubled United’s advantage within a quarter-hour when threaded through by Fernandes. Alas, he dawdled on the ball and, unable to shift it onto his stronger left foot, ended up shanking wide from the right side of the penalty area.
Sevilla’s first sighter followed two minutes later, when the lively Lucas Ocampos was denied at the near post by David de Gea. The Spanish side gradually began to take control, and midway through the opening period, found a deserved equaliser. Ocampos sent the marauding full-back Sergio Reguilón overlapping down the left, and his low cross was turned in at the back post by former Liverpool man Suso.
Despite the setback, United created the better chances of what remained of the first half. Anthony Martial should have done better when he sent Paul Pogba’s layoff curling over the crossbar, and Rashford might have netted on the stroke of halftime if not for a miscontrol inside the Sevilla box.
It was a similar story early in the second half, when only some brilliant last-ditch defending from midfielder Fernando prevented Fernandes from converting a rebound from the edge of the area. An even better chance fell to Martial after he caught Éver Banega napping deep in the Sevilla half, though he was denied in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Bono.
With United having failed to make their early dominance count, the second half became increasingly scrappy. It was entirely predictable when Sevilla made United pay with little over ten minutes left on the clock. Some lazy marking in midfield allowed Franco Vázquez to pick out Jesús Navas on the right, whose whipped cross was prodded home from point-blank range by an entirely unmarked Luuk de Jong, who had ghosted into a pocket of space between Victor Lindelöf and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
United rallied, but it was too late. Apparently lacking faith in his options off the bench, Solskjær failed to make a substitution until the final five minutes, when Juan Mata, Daniel James, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Odion Ighalo were all introduced. Ultimately, it was a game that United should have won; a game that they created the chances to win. But on the day, a mixture of poor finishing and bad luck was enough for Sevilla to end United’s hopes of capping the season with some silverware.