Miracle on demand: Five years since Sevilla´s elimination

Sensation. Magnificent comeback. Fairy tale. Legendary performance. Super advancement. Exactly five years have passed since Slavia faced Sevilla in the round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League.

Before we find out whether the Slavia squad against AC Milan in the same phase of the same competition will accidentally write a similar story, itīs appropriate to go back in time. Memories of the unique evening of March 14, 2019, will never fade away.

For many who were cheering in the sold-out Eden Arena or nervously watching on screens, it still feels like yesterday. And itīs no wonder. Fans only experience a few matches in their "career" that will craft such a story...

Every generation of Slavia fans has at least one match they will always remember. A match that bears the stamp of "legendary". For the current generation, itīs the rematch of the round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League against Sevilla in March 2019. A match that brought forth the greatest emotions at least since the historic first qualification to the Champions League twelve years earlier.

Is twelve years a generation? Not really, but there are many Slavia supporters among us who donīt remember Ajax, at least not as active fans, while Sevilla remains fresh in their memory. Spring 2019 marked one of the best periods in Slaviaīs modern history. And the victory over Sevilla gave the team the necessary confidence and belief that if they stuck to their game, they could achieve great things.

This was followed by a two-legged clash against Chelsea with a dramatic return leg at Stamford Bridge, a masterful hat-trick, scalps of teams like Leicester, Rangers, or Fenerbahce, three quarterfinals of European competitions in four years, three domestic cups in five seasons. The euphoria from the home victory over Sevilla could be felt immediately, but perhaps the broader significance of the entire two-legged tie for the players, coaches, and the entire club can only be revealed with a few yearsī perspective.

Sevilla was then – and still is – the undisputed queen of the Europa League. Between 2014 and 2016, they won it three times in a row, having already won its predecessor, the UEFA Cup, twice in a row in 2006 and 2007. Since then, they have managed to lift the trophy two more times, in 2020 and 2023.

They ranked eighth in the European club table, making them the toughest opponents Slavia could face in the round of 16 based on coefficient. Slavia was experiencing its first truly successful season in European competitions in many years and was sitting a whopping 78 places below Sevilla.

In the first leg in Seville, Slavia presented themselves in new Puma jerseys for the first time – albeit only the away ones, black. There were only a few days for the entire team to "change" before the trip to Spain. Coach Trpišovský had to wear a blue jacket around his shoulders during the match – his black outfit looked too similar to the jerseys worn by players on the field.

First bad luck, then good luck. Slavia conceded just 24 seconds from the opening whistle, which threw them off for a long time. However, luck eventually leaned towards Slavia during the first half. Stochīs shot from outside the box found the net, thanks in part to a deflection into the left top corner of Vaclíkīs goal, and Alex Králīs shoulder sent the ball over the Czech goalkeeperīs back for the second time, without the scorer being aware of it. Slavia became the first team in the season not to lose in Seville – from the previous seven cup matches, the home team had a score of 24:1.

"Reward from the football god for how hard you worked, how you labored," described Jindřich Trpišovský the significance of the home leg to his players just before it started. At the same time, he emphasized that the reward must be enjoyed, but also that they must give their all on the field. "You will fight for another two matches and another advancement, is that clear? Because you will fight, you will struggle, you will make it difficult for them. But you must believe in it. You will help yourselves only," were his words in the dressing room.

The players entered the hopelessly sold-out match amidst scenes that Eden had never experienced before. The stadium-wide choreography covered all four stands entirely, creating a fantastic effect with a giant banner reading "guys, fight". Perhaps never before had such strong energy emanated from the Slavia stadium from the beginning of a match as it did before Sevilla.

The first half of the home leg started dreamily. Kolář caught Promesī dangerous shot, and when Stoch took a corner on the other end and Škoda returned the ball to the back post before the goal, Michael Ngadeu sent the ball into the net while falling. Fourteen minutes had passed in the match, and an open and perfectly balanced game was being played. It lasted until the very end – 12:13 in shots, 5:5 in shots on target, ball possession 46% to 54%. So when Ben Yedder equalized from a penalty a minute before halftime, there was no reason to panic...

If the first goal conceded in Seville came quickly, then Slaviaīs penalty in the second leg came super quickly. The clock showed 45:08 when Jan Bořil ran behind Navas, who pulled him by the shoulder, and the referee decisively pointed to the spot. Tomáš Souček took the ball, which had become a pleasant tradition, and reliably placed it under the crossbar. Součekīs dominance couldnīt be overlooked. In the 2018/19 season, he scored 18 goals in 49 matches, which half a year later earned him a transfer to West Ham as the most expensive player ever leaving the Czech league.

When Vazquez headed Promesī cross into the net in the 98th minute, many probably considered the game over. To overturn the result against such a strong opponent would be a miracle. However, just before the end of the first extra time, Mick van Buren sent the ball into the net, extinguishing the last spark of hope, which ignited Eden. The euphoria unleashed by the winning goal a quarter-hour later is hard to compare with anything. The entire bench ran under the northern stand, where some fans had also jumped. The stands were roaring, organizers were celebrating, and goalkeeper Kolář took a hundred-meter sprint. Football is played and watched for these moments.

"Miracles do happen," commented the Czech TV pundit Jaromír Bosák immediately after the goal at 188:53 made it 4-3. At the same time, the well-known commentator didnīt forget to add that the goal, as important as it was, was also "beautifully messy". Indeed, the winning goal couldnīt vie for the Ferenc Puskás Award; after a series of deflections in the penalty area, Olayinkaīs backward pass, and Ibrahim Traoréīs weak shot, the bouncing ball was eventually knocked into his own net by defender Kjær, as later confirmed in the official record. However, what mattered was that Sevilla couldnīt react to Slaviaīs goal a minute before the end of extra time.

Midnight was approaching, yet most fans remained in Edenīs stands. Some perhaps at the risk of missing the last train, not catching the final bus, or not giving 100% at work the next morning. They couldnīt miss the group photo. The tradition of advancement photos with fans began after the sensational 4-1 victory in Genk, and Slavia left an impression primarily with their gratitude at Stamford Bridge after the quarterfinal against Chelsea - the future winner of the competition.

We look forward to seeing you against Milan at Eden, Slavia fans!


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