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‘Our team never surrenders!’: Julen Lopetegui hails Sevilla stars after Europa League triumph

Julen Lopetegui was full of praise for his Sevilla players after their ‘very special’ Europa League victory over Inter Milan, asserting ‘our team never surrenders.’

Sevilla lifted the European trophy for a record sixth time on Friday night, winning a thrilling final 3-2 at the empty RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne. 

Romelu Lukaku gave Inter the lead on five minutes, scoring from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Diego Carlos. 

Luuk de Jong then headed in two goals in 21 minutes to turn the game on its head, but Diego Godin restored parity before half-time by nodding in Marcelo Brozovic’s free-kick.

Lukaku scored at the wrong end in the second half when he inadvertently stabbed Carlos’ overhead kick past the helpless Samir Handanovic, and Sevilla held on to clinch the trophy for the sixth time in the last 15 seasons.

The Spanish club conceded early penalties in each of their final three matches in the tournament, including the 1-0 quarter-final win over Wolves and the 2-1 semi-final win over Manchester United, and Lopetegui highlighted his side’s resilience.

‘It is very special. Always it is very special to win a cup,’ the 53-year-old told reporters. ‘For us, for me, for the fans, it is very special. We have a happy ending.

‘Luuk de Jong is a very good player, he worked for his moment and he was ready in the right moment.

‘We had three penalties in the last three matches in the first five minutes but our team never surrenders.’

Lopetegui also had his say on the imminent departure of Ever Banega, who will move to Saudi Arabia this summer after three successful years with Sevilla.

The manager said of the midfielder’s decision to leave the club: ‘I am not surprised. I am sad he is leaving but I am not surprised. He is a fantastic player with a good mentality.’

De Jong became a two-goal hero in Cologne but the striker revealed he was a late addition to the starting XI: ‘It is incredible. We had such tough games all tournament but we played so well as a team,’ the Dutchman told BT Sport.

‘We were like a family, we worked together. It didn’t matter who came in. It was tough. We started well but they scored out of nothing. Two goals, amazing feeling for me.

‘The manager told me this morning (I was starting). I told him I am always ready when he needs me and today it worked really well.’

De Jong added on his two headed goals: ‘I think it is my speciality. The first cross by (Jesus) Navas was perfect, the second was also a great cross and these headers are really special when you can put them in at the near post.’

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