Ernesto Valverde has finally been able to lay the ghost of Leverkusen to rest after seeing his Espanyol side defeat Werder Bremen and secure a place in the final against Sevilla on the 16th May.
The coach had been a part of the Espanyol side who threw away a three goal lead against Bayer Leverkusen in the 1988 UEFA cup final and subsequently lost on penalties. There was a genuine fear that history was being repeated when Hugo Almeida gave Bremen the lead early on in the second leg and threatened Espanyol’s three goal advantage from the first. However, Miroslav Klose’s foolish sending off midway through the first half, followed by Corominas’ early second half strike, meant that Espanyol could start to look forward to a trip to Glasgow. Jesús María Lacruz sealed the win for the Barcelona side who finished 5-1 winners on aggregate.
After the match, Valverde said “Of course, we are more than happy tonight. Our team made it and it's not every day you get to a European final.”
The Espanyol coach is aware of the importance of the competition to the Barcelona side who are enjoying their moment in the European spotlight and who so often live in the shadows of their more illustrious neighbors Barcelona.
“We have now reached a second UEFA Cup final 19 years after our first, and my players will be very motivated. Getting there is a great achievement, especially for a side like ours” added Valverde, who is wary of the threat that his opponents in the final pose his side –“ Sevilla are the holders and are having a great season. They're still in with a chance of winning the Primera División and the Copa del Rey as well as the UEFA Cup, but they won't be giving anything away to us”
Ferrán Corominas, scorer of the first crucial away goal for Espanyol is determined to enjoy the moment however and told "The coach has refused to use the word Glasgow for the past week, but secretly we've all been talking about it," club president Daniel Sánchez Llibre joked, as Ernesto Valverde vaulted a barrier to embrace him. "Now we have a final against Sevilla to look forward to."