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Europa League: Business as usual as Sevilla breeze past Molde

europa-league-newSevilla have one foot in the round of 16 after they launched their title defence in trademark UEFA Europa League style.

Molde held their own for the opening 35 minutes, soaking up the pressure with few alarms, but once Fernando Llorente had broken the deadlock it looked like a matter of damage limitation. The towering forward added another after the restart before Kevin Gameiro, ever the super sub, wrapped up a comprehensive first-leg triumph.

Sevilla have been irresistible at home of late yet they made a sluggish start here, struggling to convert their dominance into meaningful chances. Molde, on the counter, perhaps posed the greater initial threat, though once Llorente had guided the ball in off the post after Vitolo was upended there was only really one winner.

Llorente doubled the advantage after good work from Coke, and after Coke had dinked a lovely effort against the bar, Llorente’s replacement Gameiro sealed it with a shot that squirmed beneath Ethan Horvath.

Key player: Fernando Llorente
Llorente had gone 11 games without a goal before Thursday, but after the rut ended with his slightly fortuitous scuffed effort, his confidence returned. The striker ought to have buried a header but did not let his head drop and showcased his predatory skills four minutes into the second half.

Sevilla’s home fortress
Sevilla are on a 14-match winning run at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and there was a hint of complacency early on. Vitolo, Coke and Llorente snapped them out of it and, assuming the holders finish the job next week, this will be a place potential last-16 opponents will be keen to avoid.

Molde caught cold
Molde had not had a competitive fixture since 10 December, and four of the side that earned a 1-1 draw at Ajax that night have since left. They stood firm initially, yet once the deadlock was broken they could not conjure up the sort of form that had seen them top a group including Ajax, Celtic and Fenerbahçe.