The Europa League belongs to Sevilla. The Spanish side claimed their fifth victory in the competition, with the first two coming in the old Uefa Cup. The man at the heart of three consecutive was Unai Emery, who masterminded their enduring success to subsequently earn a move to Paris Saint-Germain. The final of the competition took place in St. Jakob-Park with Coke scoring twice in a 3-1 win over Jurgen Klopp’s resurgent Liverpool side.
The 2015-16 season was the first in which the winner of the Europa League automatically qualified for the Champions League group stage the following year. Clearly, Sevilla Augsburg, Belenenses, Gabala, Groningen, Midtjylland, Sion, Skenderbeu Korce made their Europa League group stage debut this season.
Sevilla started the season in the Champions League, but finished third in a group containing Manchester City, Juventus, and Borussia Monchengladbach. Thereafter, they dropped into the Europa League and the title defence was on.
Five teams went through the group stage of the competition without losing a match - Liverpool, Napoli, Lazio, Schalke, and Sparta Prague. There were some surprises as the likes of Besiktas, Celtic, Ajax, Monaco, and last season’s finalists, Dnipro, failing to progress.
In the Round of 32, two former Champions League winners, Porto and Borussia Dortmund, faced off and it would be the Bundesliga outfit who would comfortably progress, 3-0 on aggregate. Tottenham managed to gain revenge on Fiorentina, who eliminated them the year previous, winning well in the second leg. Valencia recorded a comprehensive victory, obliterating Rapid Wien 10-0 on aggregate, Rodrigo among the goals. Manchester United overcame an embarrassing first leg loss in Midtjylland to win well in the second leg, 5-1 at Old Trafford, Marcus Rashford announcing himself to English football with a double. A James Milner penalty pushed Liverpool past Augsburg, while Lazio, Villarreal and Bayer Leverkusen also progressed.
The Round of 16 produced one of the biggest clashes in the history of the Europa League, with Manchester United and Liverpool facing off. It would be Klopp’s side who would progress with a 3-1 aggregate victory, Philippe Coutinho scoring a memorable lob of David de Gea. Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham clashed, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang proved too good, scoring three times for the Germans in a 5-1 win. Athletic Bilbao relied upon an away goal from Aritz Aduriz to knock out Valencia, while fellow Spaniards Villarreal and Sevilla progressed against Bayer Leverkusen and Basel respectively.
They won, we lost, that’s already history.Jurgen Klopp
Athletic faced familiar competition in the quarters, but on this occasion they were second best to a Sevilla side who had developed an astonishing knack of getting the job done. This time, with the sides locked at 3-3, Benat proved to be the guilty party as Sevilla scored all five of their penalty kicks to march on.
In a thrilling, iconic battle, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund played out a Europa League classic. Dortmund scored two quick away goals and with 25 minutes remaining were ahead 4-2 on aggregate, but Jurgen Klopp’s Reds produced a comeback reminiscent of Anfield days of old. Philippe Coutinho and Mamadou Sakho made it possible, setting the scene for Dejan Lovren’s added time winner.
Sevilla were drawn against Shakhtar Donetsk in the semi-final, and again Kevin Gameiro was key, scoring three times over both legs as the indefatigable Andalusians reached their third straight final. Liverpool, meanwhile, were more comfortable putting four past Villarreal.
The final of the 2015-16 Europa League campaign took place on 18 May in St. Jakob-Park, Basel and it proved to be an entertaining climax to the campaign. After a period of sparring, Daniel Sturridge sent the Liverpool fans into raptures with a lovely finish with the outside of his left foot. But Sevilla were transformed after half-time and scored just 17 seconds into the second half through that man Gameiro. Right-back Coke then stepped up, highlighting Sevilla’s offensive philosophy striking a brace to seal a 3-1 win and Sevilla’s record fifth Europa League title.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
The Frenchman scored eight goals at vital stages, including four over the semi-final and the final.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
Three Europa League tournaments on the bounce - a truly remarkable achievement for the Spaniard.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON
The former Sevilla winger starred for Villarreal, notching up the most assists in the competition with six and his performances would earn him a return to Barcelona.
ARITZ ADURIZ - 10 GOALS
TEAM OF THE SEASON
SORIA; SRNA, RAMI, HUMMELS, MARIANO; COUTINHO, KRYCHOWIAK, N’ZONZI; GAMEIRO, ADURIZ, AUBAMEYANG.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
DANIEL STURRIDGE grabbed the first goal of this season’s final with a glorious, curled strike into the far corner with the outside of his left foot from the edge of the box.
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
Jurgen Klopp would have told his players to keep things tight in the early stages of the second half in the final, but Kevin Gameiro pounceed just 17 seconds after the break to equalise for Sevilla. The Reds lost confidence, and Sevilla gained theirs back to go on and lift the trophy.