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May 15, 2014

Jesus: Best team lost Europa final

Sevilla won a penalty shoot-out to beat Portuguese giants Benfica in the Europa League final in Turin.

TURIN -- Benfica coach Jorge Jesus was left bitterly disappointed by his side's Europa League final defeat to Sevilla, claiming that the Portuguese champions were the better side on the night.

Lomas: Benfica 'curse' strikes again

Sevilla won their third UEFA Cup/Europa League in the past eight years, claiming the title on a penalty shootout after the scores had finished level at 0-0 after 120 minutes.

Benfica, for whom Oscar Cardozo and Rodrigo missed from 12 yards, had gone into the match as favourites having narrowly last year's final to Chelsea and already won two domestic trophies this season.

But they fell at the final hurdle again -- the eighth time in a row the club have lost a major European final -- with Jesus claiming Sevilla were the team with more belief, not more quality.

Sevilla beat Benfica on penalties
Benfica endured Europa League final heartbreak for the second year in a row.

"It was a great final even though there were no goals," Jesus told his postmatch news conference. "It was an open game. Sevilla started better but as the match progressed we improved and were the better team. We showed our power and had a number of opportunities to score but weren't able to.

"In extra time, the team that played with more belief ended up winning. The best team did not win the Europa League. I congratulate my players and there is nothing I can criticise. We leave with our heads held high and there is no point dwelling on this. We have another final on Sunday [the Portuguese Cup vs. Rio Ave]."

"There's no point hiding that we were without important players. I would have had more options after [Miralem] Sulejmani went off injured [in the first half]. All of our changes were forced, but the way the team responded was pleasing.

"In football, the best team does not always win. We have to be pragmatic, though, and keep our heads held high. It was an emotional experience that we need to shrug off in time for the next final in Lisbon. In the end Sevilla won so I offer them my congratulations."

Benfica captain Luisao felt fortune was smiling on Benfica at Turin's Juventus Stadium, saying: "We know how football is, but nothing cancels out the brilliant campaign we have had. We lacked luck, but Sunday we have another final to win."

He also offered his commiserations to Cardozo and Rodrigo, adding: "We have full confidence in them. They have already decided many games, but today was not a happy one."

Sevilla coach Unai Emery said his side's ability to "suffer" was the key to their victory.

The Spanish side, who finished ninth in La Liga last season, only qualified for the Europa League due to financial problems at Malaga and Rayo Vallecano.

Sevilla have often found themselves with their backs against the wall in this season's competition, requiring comebacks against Real Betis, Porto and Valencia in the knockout rounds.

And Emery felt his team's ability to handle the high pressure of the situation was what helped them lift the trophy for a third time in the club's history.

"Benfica were -- like us -- fitting finalists," Emery said in his postmatch news conference. "The game was quite even for large parts while towards the end they gave a harder push. You could really see the tiredness out there, the physical niggles. If there is one thing we have learned how to do, it is to suffer.

"The players were prepared for this. I dedicate the win to my family and friends, the technical staff and the players who deserve this for their hard work and dedication."

Emery was thankful for the work of Sevilla's goalkeeper coach in successfully preparing Beto for the shootout, with the ex-Porto man saving two of Benfica's efforts to help his team to glory.

"Our team were united in difficult moments tonight," Emery added. "The great work with the goalkeeping staff was crucial, especially when talking about Beto. We expected to have our chances -- like the one that fell to Carlos Bacca [late in the game, which he hit over] -- but we were ready for whatever occurrence.

"This is a competition that our fans love because we had won it two times before. We have worked really hard because we felt the responsibility to win. I'm not sure who were the better team, but both fought hard. I told the players not to have any doubts but I felt they were a little nervous with the score at 0-0. The game switched from being open to being extremely tight."

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