Much has been written recently about the Bela Guttmann curse hovering over Benfica as they approached their Europa League Final with Sevilla, and it appeared that the subject afflicted the Portuguese team during their eventual defeat in Turin. Sevilla claimed victory via penalties after a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes of committed play but Benfica were guilty of wasting several clear chances, several of which may have been converted in a normal game of Primeira Liga football.
When manager Bela Guttmann led Benfica to their European Cup triumph in 1962 but was then refused a pay rise, he resigned and declared that the team would never win another European tournament in 100 years. He may have been exaggerating at the time, but after losing seven finals since then, Benfica players and officials could be forgiven for thinking that the odds may be stacked against them for this Europa League final against Sevilla.
Losing both Eduardo Salvio and Lazar Markovic to suspension prior to this final was perhaps the first sign that the so-called curse was about to strike again. Markovic was dismissed for a touchline altercation in the semi-final second leg, while a harsh booking for Salvio in the same match deemed that both influential players would be missing from the Benfica attack for this match.
Maxi Pereira tried to cover the right wing role in their absence and managed to create a few openings for the strikers, but a combination of weak and hesitant finishing plus with some sturdy defensive work by the Sevilla rearguard prevented Benfica from finding the net.
That is not to say that Sevilla were devoid of any attacking threat as Carlos Bacca probably missed the clearest chance of the night when presented with a direct path on goal, only to drive a shot past the post with the outside of his right foot.
As the match progressed with fatigue and cramp becoming a serious issue, there was just the sense that Benfica lacked the real conviction to win the match as though the Guttmann curse was weighing heavily on their minds.
Desperately poor penalties by Rodrigo and Oscar Cardozo gave the impression that the responsibility was too much of a burden for two of the leading strikers at the club, whereas Sevilla despatched their four penalties with emphatic authority.
Benfica were arguably the better team on the night but goals win matches and at times there was a lack of conviction when presented with opportunities in around the penalty area. A more clinical approach was needed rather than the hesitancy and fear associated with failing in another final.
The Bela Guttmann curse has affected Benfica once again as they lost their eighth European final since 1962, but there is no immediate sign of removing this strange jinx in the near future as the current players appear haunted by its very presence.
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