Sevilla booked their place in the quarterfinals of the 2019/20 Europa League at the expense of AS Roma on Thursday, leaving the Italian side to pack their European efforts in and start planning for the next season. The final score was 2-0 and Roma can consider themselves lucky.
Deserved victory for Sevilla
The first and most obvious thing that should be said about this match is that Sevilla fully deserved to go through. They were in complete control of the proceedings throughout the contest, if contest is the right word.
Julen Lopetegui’s team pushed forward from the start and kept the ball deep in the opposition half until Sergio Reguilon’s opener in the 22nd minute. Roma then changed their approach and moved to attack in their turn, but it only got more difficult for them with Sevilla completely prepared to absorb their best efforts and hit them back on counterattack. The second goal, scored by Youssef En-Nesyri in the 44th minute, was a perfect example of that.
Roma slow in defensive transition
What En-Nesyri’s strike exposed for all the world to see was the lack of proper reaction from Roma players when they lose the ball. It was deep in Sevilla’s half that Edin Džeko got dispossessed, but one well-timed, as well as well-aimed pass from Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan was enough to put several flat-footed opponents out of action.
Winger Lucas Ocampos was far too quick for Aleksandar Kolarov to chase, Roger Ibanez simply couldn’t get across in time to cover for the former Manchester City defender, and it was far too easy for Ocampos to rush past, look up and spot the run of En-Nesyri on the far post. It’s also worth noting that as En-Nesyiri crossed the halfway line, running forward to offer himself as an option to Ocampos, the eventual scorer was facing three defenders in front of him, but not one of them tracked his run properly.
Similar moments happened on several other occasions.
It wasn’t an easy night for the Bosnian striker. He always looked completely cut off from nearest support and was constantly under severe pressure from Sevilla’s centre-backs. Both Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos were relentless in harassing him, never letting him turn towards the goal. They also rarely allowed him any benefit from a long pass, which is something Dzeko is usually very good at. But he was never a player with much pace, and at the age of 34, he certainly isn’t getting any faster, so Kounde and Carlos had little to fear marking him further up the pitch.
Some would, perhaps, argue that Dzeko would have done better had Lorenzo Pellegrini been playing behind him from the start. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Nicolo Zaniolo, who did play just off the striker, certainly tried hard to get him involved, but they too were closely watched throughout. Pellegrini replaced Zaniolo just before the hour-mark, but he made no notable contribution.
It was easy to note that the developments on the pitch heavily affected the nerves of Paulo Fonseca’s team. Frustration was written on a number of faces, especially Dzeko and Zaniolo who also frequently had something to say to referee Bjorn Kuipers. Kolarov needlessly picked up a yellow card for a nasty foul at near the end of the first half, but the culmination came late on when Gianluca Mancini deliberately elbowed Sevilla substitute striker Luuc de Jong in the back of the head. The Dutch referee took a look at the incident on the VAR screen and whipped out the red card without hesitation.
It’s normal for players to get frustrated when they’re being stifled, controlled and outplayed all game, but it seems they’ll have to work on self-control and learn to put that energy to better use.
Reguilon the real deal?
Sergio Reguilon is at Sevilla on loan from Real Madrid, and he’s due back in the Spanish capital when the Europa League ends for the Andalusians. The left-back’s performances at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan have been truly impressive and he was voted the best in his position in La Liga, and he once again delivered the goods against Roma.
But it remains to be seen what the future holds for the 23-year-old. Real have two excellent options on the left defensive flank in Marcelo and Ferland Mendy at the moment, so the need for Reguilon in Zindeine Zidane’s squad is highly doubtful.
He certainly won’t be short on offers once Real make him available in the market. His contract runs for three more years, but Los Blancos are expected to be reasonable in their demands. They need to sell players this summer, and Reguilon is a spare ready-made product that could bring in some much-desired funds.
As for Sevilla, they meet their next challenge on Tuesday – the quarterfinals and Wolverhampton Wanderers, a different opponent altogether. It should be an interesting match.