SEVILLE, Spain, Nov 28 (Reuters) Sevilla proved they are a force to be reckoned with in Europe after producing a scintillating Champions League display to inflict a first defeat of the season on a much-vaunted Arsenal side.
The Andalucians had come into yesterday's game on the back of two consecutive league defeats but they showed the sort of commitment, intensity and technical skill that propelled them to back-to-back triumphs in the UEFA Cup in the last two seasons.
Battling their way back from a goal down, they claimed a well deserved 3-1 win thanks to a stunning long-range shot from Mali midfielder Seydou Keita, a clever header from leading scorer Luis Fabiano and a last-minute penalty from Frederic Kanoute.
The victory sent Sevilla to the top of their group and guaranteed them a place in the Champions League knockout round on their first appearance in the competition since 1958.
''We've shown that Sevilla are a great team and I hope this win will help us turn things around in the league,'' Kanoute told reporters after the match.
''We are continuing to make history and we are now into the next round of a very important competition for us.
''It is important to be first in the group and have an easier rival in the next round. It is better to face the big teams as late as possible.'' MAINTAIN MOMENTUM Kanoute's strike partner Luis Fabiano said the team now had to maintain their momentum to ensure they beat Slavia Prague in their final game in the group.
''We played a great game and got a very good result,'' said the Brazilian.
''It was difficult but we fought hard and we were really motivated. We now depend on ourselves to finish top but we need to keep our feet on the ground because there is still a game left.'' Despite suffering their first defeat in 28 games, Arsenal can take solace from the fact that manager Arsene Wenger chose to field a new-look side against Sevilla in order to rest some players ahead of a gruelling December.
''For me an unbeaten record in the Champions League is not important, what it important is to qualify and we've got the Premier League too,'' said the Frenchman.
Arsenal defender Kolo Toure was also philosophical about the defeat.
''Sevilla deserved to win and now we have to look ahead,'' said the Ivory Coast international.
''We can't let this defeat disrupt us. We knew it would come. Now we need to start again. To be winners, you need to recover from set-backs and show character.'' REUTERS AB KN1612