Llorente haunts former club to send holders into Europa League
Fernando Llorente’s second-half header condemned his former club Juventus to a 1-0 defeat in the Champions League on Tuesday to send Sevilla into the Europa League.
The hosts needed a win and a Borussia Monchengladbach defeat at Manchester City to stay in Europe, and they duly kept up their end of the bargain midway through the second half when Llorente rose highest to head home Yevhen Konoplyanka’s corner at Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.
Alvaro Morata wasted the visitors’ best opportunity of the first half by poking wide from six yards out just before half-time after goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had denied Llorente’s low effort inside the area.
But it was Llorente who had the final say, although Paulo Dybala rattled the post late on, as Sevilla sealed a place in the competition they have won for the last two seasons, with City recording a decisive win over Gladbach to top the group ahead of second-placed Juve.
The Serie A title-holders, last season’s beaten finalists in this competition, made much of the early pressing in the opening five minutes, with Morata, one of two changes from their win at Lazio last time out, planting a firm header over the bar following Claudio Marchisio’s angled cross, before getting in behind the defence to flash an effort wide.
Former Juve striker Llorente came close to settling Sevilla’s nerves, diverting Konoplyanka’s speculative 25-yard effort wide on 13 minutes, but the visitors continued to threaten.
First Dybala fired wide after some neat work from Morata, before Stefano Sturaro’s powerful header forced goalkeeper Sergio Rico into a smart save from six yards.
Opposite number Buffon had to be alert at the other end to deny Llorente’s scuffed effort following a fine counterattack, but it was Morata who wasted the best chance of the half 14 minutes before the break.
Sturaro’s ball behind the defence found Dybala, whose squared header was stabbed wide of an unguarded net by the Spaniard from close range.
Buffon was on hand eight minutes later to deny Llorente’s header, while Dybala saw a fine 30-yard free-kick beaten away by Rico at the other end.
Paul Pogba stung the palms of the Sevilla keeper again with a fiery drive from outside the box just after half-time.
Ever Banega forced Buffon into a scrambled save on the hour mark with a drilled 25-yard effort, but the hosts struggled to pierce a resolute Juve defence, despite the likes of Llorente continuing to look lively.
Six minutes later, the Spaniard finally made the breakthrough, rising to power a header past Buffon and into the net.
The home faithful were made to sweat eight minutes from time when Dybala clattered an effort on to the woodwork from distance, while Michael Krohn-Dehli saw an effort chalked off for offside on an otherwise satisfying day for Unai Emery’s men.
Sevilla will now have a shot at winning the Europa League for a third season in succession, something no club has achieved in the history of UEFA’s second-tier competition, either in its current format or as the UEFA Cup, while Juve must make do with second spot in the group and a potentially unfavourable draw in the round of 16.