What a difference half an hour makes. Head coach Diego Alonso and his players have been steadfast in their stance that the results are coming and that the signs are positive. Defeat, after goals from Sergio Ramos and Youssef En-Nesyri had put us 2-0 up and cruising, will therefore be a bitter pill to swallow, especially given that the result hinged on a 66th minute sending for Lucas Ocampos who, until that point, had enjoyed a fine evening.
Whilst his side’s performance was full of fight and, at least for an hour, an elusive win seemed more likely than not, the away comeback to overturn a two goal deficit will leave the Uruguayan coach and his side with no option but to go back to the drawing board. The Champions League dream will go no further as qualification for the knock-outs is now mathematically impossible, but there is still a chance of Europa League football in the new year despite currently sitting fourth in Group B. For this to happen, Alonso and his team will of course have to win at Lens in their final game. Wednesday night's result meanwhile, puts PSV in second place, knowing that a point in their last match will send them through.
When, in the 35th minute, the fans inside the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán were treated to the sight of an Ocampos chance being entirely created by back-heeled flicks, it looked as though the attacking fluidity Alonso had been craving was starting to arrive.
Indeed, there were many positives to take from the first 68 minutes of play - we had the ball in the back of the PSV net three times, even if Djibril Sow had his goal ruled out on review by VAR. Two outrageous pieces of first-half skill from Dodi Lukebakio had drawn collective gasps from the crowd, adding to the air of new-found confidence about the players. And, more importantly perhaps, the Belgian and his teammates had shown tremendous application in their defensive work, putting in the yards to close the space and force opposition mistakes.
Nevertheless, the last half an hour of play flipped proceedings on their head and left an all-too-familiar feeling of walking away empty handed at full-time. The late comeback mounted by the Dutch league leaders was ultimately as ruthless as it was tough to take.
It was a deft finish from Sergio Ramos, added to the team’s captaincy group last week, that got the ball rolling. With 24 minutes gone, the academy product timed his run perfectly to ghost in, meet a delivery from out wide and slot home from close range. The fact that it was Ramos, now a senior dressing-room figure at the club he grew up at, that got the goal felt significant. He was back and the commitment to turning a difficult start to the season around was there for all to see.
At the start of the second half, En-Nesyri was quick to ensure we picked up where we had left off in the first. Just two minutes after the restart, the Moroccan raced clear after Marcos Acuña's through-ball scythed open the visiting defence and coolly lifted the ball over the onrushing Walter Benítez and into the net.
We had started the second period as if determined to put the game to bed early. As a result, the sight of Ocampos trudging off after a second yellow card in the 66th minute hadn’t appeared to be in the script, and nor the goal from Saibari that followed. The Moroccan midfielder, brought on as a substitute just before the hour mark, executed a brilliant hooked finish to convert a cross from the left and find the top corner.
As is often the case, the sending off had completely changed the complexion of the match and it was punished clinically by Peter Bosz' men. If we thought it was a hammer blow when the away team equalised through a Nemanja Gudelj own goal with 81 minutes on the clock, things were only about to get worse. In the second minute of injury time, PSV exploited the space afforded by their numerical advantage, turning defence into attack in an instant for Ricardo Pepi to convert on the counter. The lateness of this goal left no time for a home reply and Fernando's sending off after the full-time whistle only compounded the sense of disbelief that this had somehow got away.
We will now need to rely on more of the European magic that has got us over the line so many times before if we are to have the chance of a run in continental competition in the new year.
2. SEVILLA FC: Dmitrovic, Jesús Navas (Juanlu, minute 57), Gudelj, Sergio Ramos, Acuña, Fernando (Óliver Torres, minute 83), Sow (Jordán minute 72), Rakitic, Ocampos, Lukeabakio (Nianzou, minute 72) y En-Nesyri (Rafa Mir, minute 72)
3. PSV EINDHOVEN: Benítez, Teze, Ramalho (Saibari, minute 57), Boscagli (Van Aaholt, minute 83), Dest, Schouten (Pepi, minute 83), Til (Tillman, minute 57), Veerman, Bakayoko, Lozano (Vertessen, minute 43) y De Jong.
GOALS: 1-0 Sergio Ramos, minute 24. 2-0 En-Nesyri, minute 46. 2-1 Saibari, minute 68. 2-2 Gudelj (OG), minuto 82. 2-3 Pepi, minute 92.
REFEREE: Davide Massa. Yellow cards for Lozano, Ocampos (sent off after second yellow) and red for Fernando.