AKHISAR, Turkey – Sevilla eked out a 3-2 victory over Akhisar Belediyespor in Europa League group-stage action Thursday night despite a miserable performance in the second half.
The La Liga club initially picked up where it left off on Oct. 25, when it thrashed its Turkish-league rival 6-0 in a Group J encounter at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in Seville.
Despite missing key goal scorers Wissam Ben Yedder and Andre Silva due to injury, Sevilla came out strong at Akhisar Stadium and nearly scored on early chances by Aleix Vidal and Colombian forward Luis Muriel.
The scoreboard soon reflected the Spanish-league side’s superiority, with an unmarked Nolito scoring in the area off a pass from Muriel in the 12th minute.
The Colombian then doubled Sevilla’s lead seven minutes before the intermission when he finished off a scoring play set up by Dutch forward Quincy Promes.
But the visitors seemed plagued by over-confidence after halftime, playing lethargically and allowing Akhisar to get on the board in the 52nd minute when Dutch forward Elvis Manu received a long ball and worked his way clear of two defenders before beating Sevilla goalie Tomas Vaclik.
Playing with newfound confidence and aggression, the Turkish side grabbed the numerical advantage after Sergi Gomez picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Manu in the area and was sent off.
Although Guray Vural squandered that chance to equalize when he clanked his penalty try off the woodwork, the hosts made the score 2-2 at the 78-minute mark thanks to second-half substitute Onur Ayik’s header off a well-placed cross by Vural from the left side.
In danger of stumbling to a costly draw, or even a loss, to the weakest team on paper in Group J, Sevilla managed to secure the three points when Franco Vazquez was fouled in the area by Miguel Lopes and Ever Banega converted from the 12-yard mark.
Lopes had also committed a penalty-kick foul in the teams’ previous round-robin match, although Thursday’s infraction cost his side a point.
With the win, Sevilla now has nine points and is in second place in Group J with two round-robin matches remaining.
Russian club Krasnodar also has nine points but leads the group because of its head-to-head victory over Sevilla on Oct. 4, while Belgian club Standard Liege is third with six points.