LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool stands in the way of a third straight Europa League title for Sevilla after the clubs with a rich pedigree in Europe’s second-tier competition reached the final on Thursday.
Sevilla beat Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 at home to advance 5-3 on aggregate and maintain its impressive recent history in the competition. The Spanish club is looking to win the UEFA Cup/Europa League for a record-extending fifth time in the past 11 years.
Liverpool, a three-time winner, overturned a first-leg deficit against Villarreal by winning 3-0 at Anfield to go through 3-1 on aggregate. Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana scored second-half goals to add to a seventh-minute own goal by Bruno Soriano.
The final is in Basel, Switzerland, on May 18. The winner will qualify for the Champions League.
Kevin Gameiro scored two of Sevilla’s goals, taking his competition tally this season to seven, and Mariano Ferreira netted the third at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
Sevilla is seventh in the Spanish league but continues to show a different side in the Europa League.
Spanish teams have dominated European competition this season — Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will face off in the Champions League final this month — but there will be no all-Spanish final in the Europa League after Liverpool’s comeback against Villarreal.
Anfield was hosting its first match since a jury at an inquest absolved the club’s fans of blame in the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster that killed 96 Liverpool supporters. It was an emotional occasion, with a choir singing "You’ll Never Walk Alone" before kickoff while a mosaic bearing "96 The Greatest Family" was held up.
Anfield was in full voice, and both the occasion and Liverpool’s ferocious work rate appeared too much for Villarreal, which looked rattled early and lost its aggregate lead when Roberto Firmino sent the ball across the face of the six-yard box, Sturridge swiped at thin air, and the unfortunate Soriano deflected it into his own net.
Sturridge put Liverpool 2-0 ahead in the 63rd when a mis-hit shot by Firmino landed in the striker’s path inside the area. Sturridge’s shot went between goalkeeper Alphonse Areola’s legs, struck the post, and crept over the line.
Villarreal defender Victor Ruiz was sent off for collecting a second yellow card, and Lallana ensured there was no late tension by scoring from close range, turning in Sturridge’s weak effort.