Big Fredi Kanouté and Pretty Big, Too Álvaro Negredo combined for three goals to keep a surprisingly inspired Espanyol side at bay and seal 5th place for SevillaLand. Negredo showed his class on both of his goals: first by placing a powerful shot from outside the 18 in the upper 90 after a run by Alfaro, and then, on a dead run by blasting Caceres’s long pass first time inside near post with a Matrix-like volley. Fredi’s goal (our 0-2 at the time) came after a great give-and-go between Romaric and Luis Alberto, who calmly found Kanouté running onto goal for the point blank tap in.
As has often been the case this season, we needed some nervy defending in the end to secure all three points, but unlike two weeks ago we were able to hold on. Despite the disappointment that this season has been for some, and in the face of about two teams worth of injured players, it is amazing that this team was able to come back from the Real Madrid blowout, and from losing a two-goal lead at Osasuna, to winning these final two matches of the season. Among other things, what I have seen is a mentally strong team over the last 3 weeks of the season.
There will surely be plenty of off-season discussions about our defense, and rightly so. We’ve gone from averaging around 40 goals against in a season to this year’s 61. That is a ridiculous amount and can hardly be blamed on one sole player leaving (Squillaci) or on Palop’s run of poor form that saw him lose his spot. Fazio and Escudé seemed to have formed a good partnership in the second half of the season, but then a match like 1-6 to Real Madrid makes me rethink that entirely. Bernardo is a promising young talent who played pretty well against R. Sociedad last week, but these are positions that Del Nido and Monchi will surely be looking at during the summer.
It’s the end of the season, and so we’ll be discussing best/worst players of the year among other topical items, but let’s give a hand to a couple of members of the club that I’d like to single out. Firstly, Manzano has coached this club for about 9/10 of a season and probably was never properly recognized for his work this season. Sure, the winter months were some of the most uninspired I’ve seen in my modest six seasons following the club, but the end tells me more about Manzano than the beginning or the middle. He may very well be fired this summer, but the team got up to play these last 3 matches (save five minutes in Pamplona) after getting so grotesquely mauled by RM. It’s a credit to a coach who hasn’t been given much that we ended up 5th instead of 7th. He may stay, he may go, but he shouldn’t go without having been recognized as a fine manager who pulled us out of our winter slump, got us up to 5th with an unending string of injuries in his face, and (most importantly for the future) consistently made the kind of aggressive and difficult substitutions that good managers must make. I’d be happy to see him return for another go.
Secondly, and this deserves several pages of posts, but Frederic Kanouté is unquestionably an icon at this club. When his playing days are over I hope he comes back to Sevilla to work with the club for a period of time. As an ambassador of Sevilla FC, no other player in recent memory has represented the club with comparable elegance, class and dignity. If Sevilla is known for one player, let it be Big Fredi. The word “señorío” exists because of men like him for his actions both on and off the field. His soft-spoken demeanor was seasoned with deep convictions that occasionally shown through, and if he ever did get into hot water (as in his pro-Palestine goal celebration last year) his gentle confidence in himself convinced well beyond the words he spoke (especially in that instance). I’d like to think that I’d be writing this paragraph even if there weren’t all the departure rumors. Fredi, we admire you as a player and as a man.
Finally, we had a wonderful liveblog today which you can replay below if you think you’d enjoy seeing ten variations of “GOOOOOLL!L!L!L!LL!!!!!!!” typed at punctuated moments. It sure was fun to have so many voices chiming in. It enhances my enjoyment of the matches manifoldly. We missed our buddy, Mike, but all the other usual faces were there as well as a half dozen pals from Sweden and Switzerland. Thanks to everyone who made the last couple of matches so fun for me!!
HIGHLIGHTS!!!!!!!!!! (cheesy vid posted by espanyoltv’s channel)