Alves rides roller coaster as Sevilla triumph
May 17, 2007 - 11:47:08 AM
Glasgow, May 17 - As anybody who has ever watched a martial arts film will be able to tell you, a man's greatest strength can be his weakness.
So it was with Sevilla last night. Their Brazilian right-back Daniel Alves is justly lauded as one the best attacking defenders in the world, but his forward surges can unbalance his side.
Sevilla's midfield is so packed with attacking talent that the Dane, Christian Poulsen, operates as an auxiliary defender.
Not only does Poulsen barely venture forwards, but he seems to spend his whole time watching Alves, waiting for him to make the break that means he has to drop in to cover at right-back.
The problem is, it can leave Sevilla very square, and it was notable, particularly in the first half, how many shots Espanyol were able to fire in from 25 or so yards out.
There was clearly also a specific ploy on the part of Espanyol to hammer at Sevilla's right-back area.
David Garcia pushed on from left-back at every opportunity, while some of the touches of Albert Riera, tall, brooding and elegant, recalled the performance of Zinedine Zidane on this ground for Real Madrid in the Champions League final of 2002.
As Espanyol had the better of the opening minutes, the two had combined to set up a chance for Raul Tamudo, but stretching on the wet surface, their captain could only stab his shot at Andres Palop.
Attacking an attacking full-back with another attacking full-back is to fight fire with fire, and Espanyol had their fingers burned as Sevilla took an 18th minutes lead.
It would be harsh to blame David Garcia alone for the goal as Espanyol were caught unawares by a swift throw from Palop, but it was the left-back who was made to look foolish by Adriano, slipping as he attempted a challenge with the wrong foot as the Brazilian swept into the box before finishing neatly.
Espanyol's left flank redeemed itself 10 minutes later, though, as Riera, gathering the ball on halfway, beat Alves, cut inside, and saw his shot flick off the defender as he tried desperately to recover, leaving Palop helpless as the ball deflected above his dive.
Riera, having established the Zidane comparison, came within an inch of surpassing the French maestro's superb volley in that final for Madrid against Bayer Leverkusen.
Again Alves was at fault, giving the former Manchester City player too much time at the back of the box.
Still, nobody could have anticipated that Riera, having taken the ball down on his chest would smack a glorious volley towards the top corner.
Only a quite brilliant save from Palop, diving backwards and to his left to push the ball against the crossbar, denied him a superb second.
The dismissal of Moises Hurtado midway through the second half, though, tipped things Sevilla's way, and it was Alves who had the last laugh.
The introduction of Jesus Navas on the right side of midfield seemed to give Sevilla a more natural shape, and it was from Navas' low cross at the end of the first half of injury-time that Frederic Kanoute touched home.
As Espanyol apparently wilted, an Alves pass almost laid in Puerta for a third, and only a fine save from Gorka Iraizoz prevented the Brazilian rounding off the night with a goal of his own.
And yet that defensive weakness was to cost Sevilla. Jonatas, the substitute, was given room to advance, and his low drove from just outside the box skimmed off Poulsen on its way into the bottom corner.
Even then there was time for Alves to lay on another chance for Kanoute, but he blazed over, and Alves's battle with himself went to penalties.
He lost, smashing his kick high over the bar, but Sevilla won as three Espanyol players missed from the spot.
For Espanyol a repeat of the agony of 1988, when they squandered a three-goal lead in the UEFA Cup final to lose on penalties to Bayer Leverkusen.
For Sevilla the honour of becoming the only second team, after Real Madrid, to retain the trophy.
For Daniel Alves, it was a distinctly mixed night.
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