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EUROPA LEAGUE

Sevilla crowned Europa League champions

Benfica, recently crowned league and League Cup champions, came to Turin confident of ending a 52-year jinx that had seen them lose a total of seven European finals since winning the second of two consecutive European Cups in 1962.

Sevilla crowned Europa League champions
Sevilla's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the UEFA Europa league against Benfica. Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP

Benfica had stumbled at the last hurdle five times in the European Cup, once in the UEFA Cup (1983) and once in its successor, the Europa League, in 2013 when they lost 2-1 to Chelsea in Amsterdam.

However despite creating the lion's share of chances in a fairly balanced encounter, the 'Benfica Curse' — as their unenvied streak has come to be known — was maintained as Jorge Jesus's men ultimately failed to convert the numerous chances they created at Juventus Stadium.

"It was a great match, a great final and an open game," said Jesus.

"Sevilla started off better, but as the match progressed we improved and we were the better team.

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"We showed our power and created chances to score but couldn't. And then in extra time the team that believed more in the penalties was Sevilla.

"In the game, the best team did not win the Europa League."

The match remained scoreless after two 15-minute periods of extra time and when it came to penalties Sevilla — who claimed the second of their two titles from the Europa League's predecessor, the UEFA Cup in 2007 — stepped up to the plate in impressive fashion.

Benfica striker Lima got the Portuguese giants off the mark but after Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca fired into the roof of the net to pull level, Sevilla 'keeper Beto dived low to save Oscar Cardozo's tame shot.

Stephane Mbia then sent Jan Oblak the wrong way to make it 2-1, and after Beto saved Rodrigo's tame shot the title was Sevilla's after Frenchman Kevin Gameiro, a late substitute, gave the Spaniards an unassailable 4-2 lead following successful spot kicks from either side by Coke and Benfica captain Luisao.

Sevilla can now boast winning three titles from Europe's second-tier club competition having won the Europa League's predecessor, the UEFA Cup, twice in succession, in 2006 and 2007.

In 2007 the Spaniards beat fellow La Liga side Espanyol on penalties.

The Andalusians, coached by Unai Emery, become the first champions of the Europa League to win on penalties.

Their triumph this year is all the more impressive as Emery's revamped side, who only finished ninth in last season's Spanish championship, were given entry because two other clubs failed to meet the financial benchmark set by UEFA.

Emery agreed it was a "balanced" encounter, but said: "Sevilla deserved to win. Benfica created their chances but we played really well and resisted them at every turn.

"Tonight we showed we were a team that is united, especially when faced with formidable challenges."

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FOOTBALL

Liverpool fan to Madrid taxi driver: ‘You’ve restored my faith in humanity’

A Liverpool fan who lost his phone in the back of a cab after spending the weekend in Madrid for the Champions League Final didn’t hold out much hope for its return.

Liverpool fan to Madrid taxi driver: ‘You’ve restored my faith in humanity’
Paul Hands with his fiancée Charlotte in Madrid for the Champions League final. Photo: P Hands

Message boards and whatsapp groups were full of anecdotes about fans having their phones  snatched and wallets nicked by pickpockets taking advantage of the crowds that flocked to the city for the final earlier this month.

So Paul Hands, 44 a recently retired officer from the British Army, felt he only had himself to blame when he leapt out of a taxi at the airport leaving his phone and bank cards behind on the seat.

“When we got to the airport we had to quickly pay and jump out and it was then that I dropped my phone (the phone has a wallet holder so my bank cards were also in it),” he explained to The Local by telephone  from his home in Liverpool.

 “I didn’t realise I’d dropped it until we was through security and we didn’t have a clue what the taxi company was as we just flagged him down on the street,” he said.

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It wasn’t the loss of the phone, or the bank cards that most upset him, but rather the loss of all the photographs Paul and his fiancée, Charlotte, had taken during their stay in Madrid.

“We were both gutted as the phone had all our photographs from recent trips and all our info about our wedding – we get married in Liverpool in 2 Months time – I honestly thought we’d lost all the photos and phone as we hadn’t had a chance to back the photos up,” he said.

But just on the off chance, after a long journey home, flying via Porto, he logged onto the “find my phone app” on ipad and sent a message asking that whoever had his phone please get in contact..

To his immense surprise, he received a message back from the taxi driver, whose name was Juan,, and through using a translation app, the pair were able to communicate.

“The taxi driver sent us a message saying he was so glad we’d sent a message to the phone as he was worried how he could get it back to us.

 “We thanked him (we were using the English/Spanish translator as he didn’t speak English and we don’t speak Spanish!). The phone arrived at my home address some 5 days later. All in perfect condition and we were able to recover our photos.”


Paul and Charlotte recovered all the photos of their memorable trip. Photo credit: P Hands.

What’s more, the driver refused to accept a money transfer to pay for the postal costs, despite repeated attempts to reimburse him – instead, Paul and Charlotte plan to send him a gift.

“The actions of this taxi driver made the whole trip amazing. As well as our team winning the European Cup we got to meet this man that was so honest and really did more than we’d expect. Especially as the cost of the taxi  ride was less than the cost of the postage!”

“He’s a great ambassador for Madrid and a true gentleman,” the fan added.

Hands shared his story on Facebook forums for Liverpool fans and expats in Madrid where some told him how lucky he was, and others also shared their stories of kind-hearted Madrileños.

“It's so nice to hear a good story for a change”, wrote one.  “Thank you for restoring my faith in the human race.”

“This in my experience is Madrileños. More than one thank you they get bored with and just want you to shut up!” wrote another.

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