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5 of the best Europa League finals in the 21st century

Manchester United will face Villarreal in the Europa League final later this month. Here are five recent classics from the showpiece game of Europe’s secondary competition.

Liverpool 5-4 Alaves (2001)

One of the greatest European finals of all time took place in Dortmund in 2001. Liverpool were chasing a treble having already lifted the FA Cup and League Cup, while Alaves had punched above their weight to reach the final, not least in knocking out Inter in the fourth round.

Markus Babbel gave Liverpool the lead after just three minutes, and Steven Gerrard doubled it with a quarter of an hour on the clock. Ivan Alonso halved the deficit for Alaves, but a Gary McAllister penalty ensured the Reds went in 3-1 up at the break.

They might have felt comfortable at half-time, but Liverpool were given an almighty shock soon after the restart as Ivan Moreno’s quick-fire double brought Alaves level. Robbie Fowler then made it 4-3 to Liverpool, but an equaliser from Jordi Cruyff in the 88th minute forced extra time, where an own goal by Delfi Geli settled a thrilling final in Liverpool’s favour.

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Fulham (2010)

Fulham’s run to the 2010 Europa League final was a fairytale. Roy Hodgson’s side had begun the competition in the third qualifying round back in August; eighteen games later and they had reached the final.

Fulham were underdogs against Atletico Madrid, but no one was completely writing them off given their prior successes against Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg.

Diego Forlan fired the Spanish side ahead shortly after the half-hour mark, but Fulham responded within five minutes through Simon Davies. The match looked to be headed to penalties, only for Forlan to bag his second in the 116th minute.

Sevilla 3-2 Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (2015)

Sevilla are the most successful side in Europa League history, having won the competition six times. Their triumph in 2015 was the club’s fourth, as Unai Emery’s men edged out Ukrainian outfit Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in Warsaw.

The first half was fantastic, as the two teams traded four goals. Nikola Kalinic edged Dnipro ahead after seven minutes, but goals from Grzegorz Krychowiak and Carlos Bacca turned the game on its head. Dnipro kept their nerve, though, and Ruslan Rotan restored parity just before the break.

Both sides had chances to win the game in the second half, but it was Bacca who grabbed the all-important fifth goal in the 73rd minute.

Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal (2019)

An all-English final in 2019 ended in a comprehensive victory for Chelsea. The match was seen as more important for Arsenal, who were looking for a route into the Champions League having failed to finish in the top four of the Premier League, but Maurizio Sarri’s side were far too strong on the night.

Eden Hazard was the star of the show in what turned out to be his last game for the club before a move to Real Madrid. The game was goalless at half-time but exploded into life in the second period, with Olivier Giroud, Pedro Rodriguez and Hazard all finding the net to put Chelsea 3-0 up.

Alex Iwobi gave Arsenal a glimmer of hope in the 69th minute, but that was quickly extinguished when Hazard scored his second of the night to bid farewell to Chelsea in style.

Sevilla 3-2 Inter (2020)

Last season’s final was played in an empty stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it was a terrific game nonetheless. Romelu Lukaku gave Inter an early lead from the penalty spot in the fifth minute, and many expected Antonio Conte’s side to stroll to victory from that point.

Sevilla were resilient, though, and a Luuk de Jong double made it 1-1 and then 2-1 to the Spaniards. Diego Godin struck in the 36th minute to level things up, as Inter attempted to win the tournament for the fourth time.

It was Lukaku who scored the decisive goal in the second half – but at the wrong end. His own goal in the 74th minute was enough for Sevilla to win the Europa League yet again.

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