A spirited second half fightback did not prove enough to overcome Sevilla and it is the Spaniards who progress to the last four of the UEFA Cup.
A spirited second half fightback did not prove enough to overcome Sevilla and it is the Spaniards who progress to the last four of the UEFA Cup.The team were caught cold by two goals in the opening seven minutes of the game, which made for the tallest of orders and one that could not be met despite the best of efforts after the interval.
The introduction of Jermain Defoe led to renewed hope when he netted seconds after stepping on the pitch and was quickly followed onto the scoresheet by Aaron Lennon. As you would expect, no energy was spared in seeking the two goals required, but it was not to be.
There was a pre-match huddle that served to stoke up the atmosphere even more as the fans responded to the call from Martin Jol to make the noise 'electrifying' but, with just two minutes showing on the clock, a corner from the right was met by the head of Christian Poulsen and an attempt by Steed Malbranque to clear led to the midfielder slicing into his own net.
It was far from the start wished for in the game that marked the return of skipper Ledley King to action for the first time since Boxing Day.
It got worse on seven minutes when Fredi Kanoute weaved in from the top right corner of the penalty area, played a one-two with Aleksandr Kerzhakov, and proceeded to slide the ball beyond Paul Robinson and send the Lane into a stunned state.
It left us requiring to scale the footballing mountain of a need for four goals - Robbie Keane had a chance to chip away at the wish when he rounded David Cobeno in the Sevilla goal, but was forced too wide and the keeper retreated in time to gather his centre.
The Sevilla tide was stemmed as we approached the half hour point in the game but the threat at the other end was not significant enough to trouble Cobeno. Both Pascal Chimbonda and Malbranque were booked by the Austrian referee and the cards seemed to have the effect of sparking the game - and certainly the crowd - up a notch.
Didier Zokora took matters into this own hands shortly before the break with a bursting run from half way that led the ball landing in the path of Dimitar Berbatov on the left, but he pulled his effort across goal. The Bulgarian then struck on the spin from outside the area and hit the right-hand upright.
Another Zokora dash after the interval resulted in calls for a penalty that were promptly waved away, but an early second half goal eluded the boys despite the incredible backing of the supporters who were non-stop in their chanting.
Defoe was called upon and responded almost immediately with a goal on 65 minutes. A Jermaine Jenas free-kick was headed away by Kanoute only as far as Keane, who attempted to drill goalwards and the ball was diverted into the net by the substitute.
The Lane literally erupted a minute later when Berbatov scooped into the area and Keane made a challenge, with the ball falling kindly for Lennon to the left of the six yard box to poke into the net under challenge from his marker.
It was almost like a new game and two further goals were needed without reply in the remaining 20 minutes. It was also like watching a different team, the ball was now a friend and passes and clever touches were coming off. The team in orange were rattled.
It was Robinson next in action though with an excellent save from an angled Antonio Puerta drive, tipping away low to his left with 12 minutes remaining, before Berbatov and then Michael Dawson had chances at the other end.
A much clearer opportunity soon fell the way of Berbatov after Defoe sped down the left and centred, the Bulgarian opting too much for placement and failing to put on enough power to beat Cobeno to his left.
Perhaps our fortune over the course of this tie was summed up at the beginning of stoppage time when Tainio was red carded for a not overly zealous challenge on Puerta.
Pride was restored on the night and defeat avoided, but our UEFA Cup journey has now drawn to a conclusion.