Borussia Mönchengladbach fell in a 1:0 defeat to an efficient Sevilla FC side at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Thursday evening’s first-leg Europa Cup match. A second-half goal from Vicente Iborra was all that separated the two sides on the scoreboard.
Advantage travels with Sevilla into the second leg at Borussia-Park next week, but fans and neutrals alike should expect a brilliant game next week.
Iborra’s goal was one of Sevilla’s few clear-cut opportunities and arrived amidst a sea of Mönchengladbach pressure. The shot bobbled past Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer to hand the defending champion the lead they would hold to the final whistle.
The game opened excitingly, with each team testing the other for opportunities, and it was Borussia who created the first big chance of the evening.
Excellent close-control passing between Fabian Johnson, Raffael, and Granit Xhaka worked the ball into space for the guests, allowing Johnson to run at the Sevilla defence. The American international’s cut-back to Christoph Kramer, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, was excellent and found the midfielder in a pocket of space running into the box, but the former Bochum loanee could only pull a good save out of Sevilla’s goalkeeper, Sergio Rico.
Raffael later worked the ball into space, beating Vitolo and spraying a delicate ball through the Sevilla defence into the path of Johnson, whose attempted chip was saved well. Mönchengladbach’s best opportunity of the night by that point was a reminder of how magical an on-form Raffael can be, in contrast to his form of recent weeks.
The Raffael-Johnson tandem linked-up again moments later as Raffael harried Aleix Vidal into giving up the ball near the corner flag before pacing towards the area and laying off to Johnson, who could only scuff a shot wide of Rico’s post. Still, it was a great sign of how well Borussia – and in particular Raffael – had played in the first half, and provided some element of optimism going into the second.
It was Gladbach who started the second half better, too, as Hrgota and Johnson combined to effect on the right side of the pitch, eventually finding Hazard who squared menacingly to full back Oscar Wendt for the Swede’s first key attacking involvement of the game. Wendt could only fire his left-footed drive past Rico’s post, but it was another good chance for the guests, who were completely outplaying the champions on their own turf.
Wendt then combined well with Hrgota on the break, but his cross was collected fairly easily by Sergio Rico.
It was at this point Sevilla began to grow into the game. A long ball forward toward Vidal allowed the Andalusian side to get behind Wendt, but Vidal could only scoop a cross into the paws of Sommer. The move preceding the awful cross, though, was a virtual carbon copy of the goal to come.
Another long ball into the channel evaded Wendt, and this time, Portuguese defender Diogo Figueiras squared low, finding Iborra in the middle. Iborra’s shot cannoned off his boot and then the turf, first ballooning over Jantschke and then Sommer, who did everything to get a hand to the ball, but Sevilla found themselves in the lead through a slightly odd-looking chance, but a great move coming through their first real spell of pressure.
Hazard tried a cross-cum-shot in the latter stages of the game, before substitutes Herrmann and Kruse combined to test Sergio Rico for the last time, all to no avail.
Progression is still eminently possible, but if results were given based on the passion of the fans, Borussia could assume they’d ease through.
Only 25,000 turned up to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Thursday, despite a capacity of 45,500. This was in part down to Borussia’s allocation of just 2,100 tickets. Attendance would have been higher had Gladbach fans who travelled without tickets been allowed to buy tickets to enter the half-empty stadium.
Expect attendance at Borussia-Park to be much higher, given that fans of the club have embraced the Europa League experience this season.
Sevilla FC 1:0 (0:0) Borussia Mönchengladbach
Sevilla: Sergio Rico; Vidal (Deulofeu, 90+3.), Pareja, Carrejo, Navarro; Iborra, Krychowiak, Vitolo; Banega (Suarez, 88.), Reyes (Figueiras, 55.); Bacca (4-2-3-1).
Mönchengladbach: Sommer; Jantschke, Stranzl, Dominguez, Wendt; Hazard, Kramer, Xhaka, Johnson; Raffael (Kruse, 79.); Hrgota (Herrmann, 69.) (4-4-1-1).
Yellow Cards: Jantschke 8., Xhaka 14., Vitolo 30., Stranzl 43., Kramer 65., Carrico 75.