Anyone who visits the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, the home of Sevilla FC, usually leaves with an enduring memory of the amazing atmosphere experienced at games, especially just before kick-off, when the fans in every stand singing the team’s centenary anthem acapella. No booming audio from the stadium speakers, just the passionate voices of thousands of Sevillistas in faithful support of their team.
During the 2017-18 campaign and most notably in the Champions League, the Sánchez Pizjuán has once again proven to be one of the most vibrant venues in European competition, and that was no different for the round-of-16 first leg tie against Manchester United on 21st February 2018, with every stand packed to capacity.
No goals, but plenty to see and hear from the fans
The form of Sevilla FC in La Liga has been somewhat sketchy this season, resulting in the sacking of Argentine coach Eduardo Berizzo in December, even though his team had progressed through to the knockout stage of the Champions League. Nevertheless, domestic form has improved under Italian manager Vincenzo Montella, so ahead of the European clash with Manchester United, the team really fancied their chances on home turf against the English side.
Ahead of kick-off, the Sánchez Pizjuán was packed to the rafters, and as is traditional at the venue, Sevilla fans proudly sang their centenary anthem, accompanied by a red and white mosaic held aloft all around the stadium, with the famous Biris Norte ultras waving flags and banners behind the north end goal. As the teams stepped out onto the pitch, the wall of noise didn’t subside, as Sevilla supports backed the team with their most popular chants and songs.
Unfortunately, the match didn’t produce the goals that were expected, given the attacking qualities possessed by both sides. Although Sevilla dominated much of the play, it’s not without some irony that a fellow Spaniard kept them at bay, with Manchester United keeper David de Gea producing a string of fine saves, denying the home side a first leg advantage their efforts arguably deserved.
The win that eluded Sevilla
Urged on by the ceaseless and passionate support of their fans throughout the whole game, Sevilla created 25 goal attempts compared to just six that visiting United could muster. Try as they might, the home side did everything but put the ball into the back of the net. Indeed, this is the first time in 63 matches that Sevilla failed to score at home, having netted in 24 consecutive European games prior to the visit of the Red Devils, and the first goalless draw for Manchester United in 28 European encounters.
In the wake of the first leg draw, as of February 22, 2018, Manchester United are priced as 7/10 favourites with Betway Sports to win the second leg, with Sevilla FC priced at odds of 4/1 for what would be considered a surprise away win. However, the Champions League form of Sevilla is not to be sniffed at, having scored in each of their away games during the group stage of the competition, and a vital away goal could make all the difference at Old Trafford.
Flares confiscated ahead of the first leg
When the Sevilla team bus arrived at the Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, the players were greeted by huge roars from their fans and a colourful display of flares held aloft by the Biris Norte ultras. Although this made for vivid images outside the stadium, flares and smoke bombs remain strictly prohibited within all venues throughout Spain, with huge fines levied at clubs when they do appear during games.
According to local media reports, between 700 and 900 flares were confiscated by the National Police prior to the match, which the Biris Norte ultras had hoped to use before the game to welcome the team, and inside the stadium during the game itself. The flares were seized from an individual by police in an area close to the stadium, who authorities had apparently been monitoring for a number of weeks, as part of their crackdown on the use of any pyrotechnics inside football venues around the country.