The Eagles created more than enough chances to have beaten Sevilla comfortably in the Europa League final but their forwards were ultimately punished for their profligacy
Benfica have infamously never had much luck in finals; they had been beaten in their previous seven tournament deciders in continental competition before Wednesday night's nightmare in Turin. That they lost the toss to decide which end the penalty shootout would take place in front of did not bode well and what unfolded thereafter was of no surprise to their long-suffering fans.
But make no mistake about it: the curse of Bela Guttmann curse was not responsible for this latest loss. There were no darker forces at work here. In truth, Benfica only had themselves to blame – or, more accurately, their misfiring frontline.
Jorge Jesus’ men created more than enough chances to have won this game comfortably. There is no denying that Sevilla played their part in a truly absorbing final. With Ivan Rakitic having justified all of the hype surrounding him with a man-of-the-match-winning performance, they were always a serious threat on the counterattack. Nicolas Pareja, meanwhile, performed miracles in defence, while Stephane Mbia and Co. ran themselves to a standstill in midfield.
However, Benfica opened Sevilla up time and time again. Yet time and time again, they failed to find the back of the net. Lima saw a shot cleared off the line by Pareja but he had been forced wide by a dreadful first touch on a terrific lofted ball from Gaitan that should have put the Brazilian straight through on goal. Rodrigo was equally guilty of squandering excellent opportunities with weak finishing. Oscar Cardozo’s shockingly arrogant penalty in the shootout perfectly summed up everything that had gone before from their inaccurate attackers. They got what they deserved in the end - nothing.
But Benfica’s back four had deserved better. Luisao and Ezequiel Garay had been immense at the heart of the Eagles defence. The pair put their body on the line time and time again. Twice the latter of that pair collapsed to the floor, stricken by cramp. Twice he battled on. That his bravery proved in vain will be devastating for not only him but the entire club.
There will, of course, be a temptation for supporters to blame the Guttman curse, which will now enter a 53rd year. There will be some comfort in the thought that somehow this wasn't their fault; that fate had simply conspired against them once more.
But the cold, hard truth is that they have blown another excellent opportunity to end their European trophy drought. Benfica were not victims of a curse, they were not victims of bad luck. They were victims of bad finishing.