Sevilla took a major step towards retaining their Europa League crown by routing Fiorentina 3-0 in the first leg of their semi-final showdown at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Thursday.
Unai Emery’s side lifted the trophy last season thanks to a penalty shootout victory over Benfica and are bidding to become the first club to win the competition four times.
They are now clear favourites to at least reach the final in Warsaw, aftern Aleix Vidal double and late Kevin Gameiro strike put them in firm control of the tie.
Vidal’s first was a low driven shot from 18 yards, before the Spaniard made it two with a calm finish early in the second half, although Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto made his job easier with a poor effort to deny him.
Then Gameiro, who came off the bench to replace Carlos Bacca, scored with his first touch to cap yet another strong home performance from Sevilla, who have now won nine consecutive matches at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in this competition.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, will regret their first-half profligacy, with Mario Gomez, Matias Fernandez and Mohamed Salah all spurning excellent chances either side of Vidal’s opener.
Gomez was the first to waste a golden opportunity, firing off target following Joaquin’s incisive pass in the fifth minute.
Fiorentina were left to rue that miss 12 minutes later as Bacca teed up Vidal, who placed a first-time finish into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the area.
The visitors ought to have been level almost immediately, but, after more good work by Joaquin close to the byline, Fernandez somehow stabbed the former Real Betis man’s cutback wide from five yards.
Vincenzo Montella’s men continued to look dangerous going forward and Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico had to produce excellent saves to deny Fernandez and then Salah at close range.
Deep in first-half stoppage time, Sevilla thought they should have had a penalty when Grzegorz Krychowiak went down under Stefan Savic’s challenge, but rather than point to the spot, referee Felix Brych blew his whistle to signal the end of the period.
Sevilla’s sense of injustice did not last long, however, as Vidal doubled his tally seven minutes after the restart.
The full-back found himself in space down the right flank and, after being picked out by Vitolo’s pass, side-footed in at the near post, with Neto diving too early in the wrong direction.
Vidal turned provider with 15 minutes left, diverting Benoit Tremoulinas’ cutback goalwards, where Gameiro was on hand to slot home from six yards and compound Fiorentina’s woes as their 12-match unbeaten run away from home in Europe came to a grinding halt.
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