The 2013/14 Europa League round of 16 draw made history. For the first time, Seville’s two top sides, Sevilla and Real Betis, would face each other in continental competition. They had both made it through the tournament’s group stages and first knockout round without much fuss, but their domestic circumstances were vastly divergent. While Sevilla were chasing a place in La Liga’s top six, Betis were fighting to avoid relegation to the second tier.
As a result, the stakes were particularly high for the first all-Sevillian European contest. Historically, however, there has always been a lot at stake when the two teams have clashed. The derby dates back to 1915, when the first game took place (Sevilla won 4-3), but the roots of the rivalry go back even further.
Sevilla Derby History
In his book on Spanish football, ‘Morbo’, Phil Ball writes that: “Four years after the founding of Sevilla FC in 1905…three of Sevilla’s newly elected directors refused to sanction the signing of a player whose family, housed in Triana, were of
working-class stock. The two directors who stood up to them pulled out of the club and formed Betis, in 1909. Little wonder, then, that the club immediately attracted a leftish reputation.”
It appears that the Seville derby has always been associated, to an extent, with class, though some locals would disagree as to the exact role or influence politics has in the rivalry. Nonetheless, meetings between the two clubs are always feisty affairs, and their match on March 20, 2014 was no different.
Europa League Clash 2014
Betis went into that evening’s second leg with a huge advantage. Not only had they scored two goals without reply in the first leg, but said first leg had been away from home. Sevilla would therefore have to score at least twice without reply to have any chance of going through, and they would have to do so in front of a hungry Betis support.
There is a belief, albeit not a widely held one, that a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous score possible in football. Those in favour of such a notion looked like geniuses within the first 20 minutes of this absorbing match. Sevilla began the stronger side, establishing control of possession and zipping the ball around with an urgency and purpose that confirmed their need for goals. Lining up in a rough 4-4-2, their full-backs and wingers held wide positions in order to make the field as big as possible and stretch their hosts’ compact defence.
Betis didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. With their midfield dropping deep in front of a five-man back line, they had no shortage of numbers defensively, but they seemed utterly incapable of preventing the Sevilla frontmen causing
havoc. Kevin Gameiro and Carlos Bacca presented a troubling strike duet with their combination of insatiable work ethic and intelligent movement, and both players came close to scoring in the first half.
Bacca got in behind the Betis centre-backs early on with a typically excellent bit of movement, but he was unable to get a shot off or pick out an accurate cross for his strike partner, who was sprinting to join him in the penalty area. Around 20 minutes later, Gameiro got on the end of a nice piece of attacking play, only to be called offside.
Sevilla Take the Lead
Between those two close shaves, Sevilla took the lead on the night. Alberto Moreno, rather innocuously, curled a cross in from the left-hand side. The Betis defence were so deep that the cross actually went in front of them, rather than behind them, but none of them could deflect or clear it from danger. Ultimately, the ball fell to Jose Antonio Reyes, a product of the prestigious Sevilla academy, who steered it home with a calm finish.
Perhaps freed from nerves by a truly poor first-half showing, Betis emerged for the second period with an increased resolve and a determination to seal victory. They worked multiple openings in the final third, but kept fluffing their lines at the last moment. The home fans could barely watch as wayward shot after wayward shot sailed high and wide.
Unai Emery Drives the Team Forward
One man who couldn’t take his eyes off the action – not for one single second – was Unai Emery. In his first season as Sevilla boss, he commanded the touchline with incessant hand gestures and frenetic babbling. At no point did he stop telling his players where to be or what to do – if his side were to go out it would not be for any lack of communication on his part.
With 15 minutes left to play in normal time, Emery’s Sevilla got their second goal. Having weathered a small storm, they had begun to assert themselves once again when another Moreno cross from the left wing found Bacca all alone in the penalty area. The Colombian, precise as ever, finished first-time, his shot hitting the net before home goalkeeper Antonio Adan could muster a reaction.
The scores were level and Sevilla were in the ascendancy. Betis fans covered their faces with green scarves, their fear finally overwhelming their hope. In truth, the difference in individual quality between the two sides was finally telling on the pitch. Lively forward Ruben Castro was Betis’ star man, but Sevilla had class throughout their side, from Federico Fazio at the back to Ivan Rakitic in midfield and Bacca up front.
Extra-Time & Penalties
Neither team could snatch the win in extra time, meaning penalties would decide the tie. The shootout started well for Betis – after Vitolo missed Sevilla’s opener, Castro slotted home a remarkably cool penalty high into the roof of the net. But it was all downhill from there for the hosts, with Alfred N’Diaye and Nono missing to enable Emery’s side to progress.
Having eliminated their city rivals in their own stadium, Sevilla would go on to win the Europa League that season, knocking out Porto and Valencia before beating Benfica in the final. And one Europa League title would become three consecutive titles. Meanwhile Betis, unable to recover from the stunning continental derby turnaround, would be relegated from La Liga after finishing bottom of the table.
This article was written for Soccer Box by Blair Newman. Shop with us for all your La Liga football shirts and kit, including Sevilla and Real Betis merchandise while supplies last.