Romelu Lukaku scored at both ends in a thrilling final as Europa League kings Sevilla won the tournament for the sixth time.
Sevilla vs Inter Milan head-to-head began with drama and ended in tears for the Belgian striker, Romelu Lukaku. All was well at the beginning until defender Diego Carlos fouled the striker to award him a penalty that he converted to place his side in front. Little did we know it would end in tears for Lukaku after he deflected Carlos’s bicycle kick into his own net-a goal that award Sevilla their third.
Antonio Conte opted to leave his starting XI unchanged from the 5-0 semi-final win over Shakhtar Donetsk with Lukaku aiming to make it 11 successive Europa League games with a goal.
As for Sevilla, Lopetegui made a bold call to start De Jong ahead of first-choice striker Youssef En-Nesyri after the former’s winner against Manchester United in the last four.
Sevilla was looking to win the competition for the sixth time in their history against an Inter Milan side who had finished a point behind Juventus in the Scudetto race.
If you had thought of a final without fans would be cagey, you were mistaken. Within five minutes, Inter broke at a rapid rate on the counter with Nicolo Barella feeding in Lukaku. With one touch, the Belgian sped past Diego Carlos who got too tight to Lukaku and ended up hauling down the striker inside the box. Directly, referee Danny Makkelie pointed to the spot.
With a slight stutter slotted into the corner past shot-stopper Yassine Bounou, Lukaku opened up the scoring board.
From this moment, It was expected Conte’s side with Godin at the heart of the defense, would be difficult to break down.
However, a carbon copy of Sevilla’s winning goal against Manchester United followed. Jesus Navas whipped in a fine cross and De Jong’s bullet header found its way past Samir Handanovic.
A goal piece after 13 minutes spelled out this would be no ordinary finale but an end-to-end thriller. Not shy to showcase his passion on the touchline, Conte was booked after a disagreement with the officials and Lopetegui.
Nonetheless, there could be no discussions with De Jong’s skillful second goal after the half-hour mark. Ever Banega curled in an inviting free-kick and the Dutchman rose to the occasion and aimed his looping header into the far corner.
No sooner had Sevilla finished celebrating than Inter hauled themselves back level. This was a set-piece whipped in by Marcelo Brozovic who found Godin at the far post. The experienced Uruguayan headed past Bounou.
After a breathless first half, the second descended into the midfield battle with yellow cards and niggly fouls prominent.
Lukaku earned himself a golden chance when put through one-on-one with Bounou. Notwithstanding, the striker did not display similar composure as he did for the penalty. Instead, he struck right at the Sevilla goalkeeper who did brilliantly to appear so big in stature.
The miss would prove to be pivotal as Lukaku got his second on the night. But, as most would not have expected Lukaku stuck his foot to accidentally divert it into the net after Carlos had executed a bicycle kick.
With no hesitation, Conte sent in Sanchez, Eriksen, and Moses in search of an equalizer. But, with 10 minutes left, Sanchez was denied by a goal-line clearance from Jules Kounde.
Just as they had done several times in this competition, Sevilla battled on and held their sixth Europa League triumph in a thrilling final.