TURIN Few teams can have taken more tortuous routes to European success than Sevilla this season and coach Unai Emery hailed his team's "capacity to suffer" after they beat Benfica on penalties to win the Europa League on Wednesday.
Sevilla played 19 matches on their way to winning the competition for a third time and were lucky to be taking part at all.
After finishing ninth in La Liga last season, Sevilla would not normally have qualified but won a place after Malaga and Rayo Vallencano, who finished above them, were both barred after falling foul of UEFA licensing regulations.
Having progressed to the round of 16, Sevilla overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit before beating neighbours Real Betis on penalties and another one-goal first-leg deficit against Porto in the quarter-finals.
Their semi-final win over Valencia was even more dramatic as they squandered a two-goal first-leg lead, fell 3-0 behind in the second leg and scored in stoppage time to sneak through in stoppage time.
Finally, they ground their way through a tough 120 minutes against Benfica before winning another penalty shootout, this time 4-2.
"The capacity of this team to suffer has made it," coach Unai Emery told reporters.
"We suffered against Betis, against Porto and against Valencia and here as well, so we suffered and we competed," he told reporters.
"We played our first game in August when we should have been on the beach and we had to get rid of the inertia of our own fans towards this competition.
"The team has shown great solidarity in the difficult moments and this is our prize."
(Reporting By Brian Homewood)