Cancer-stricken Sevilla coach sparks comeback
Berizzo lauded for inspiring a comeback draw against Liverpool
Sevilla have confirmed that coach Eduardo Berizzo has prostate cancer, just hours after his side staged a remarkable comeback against Liverpool in the Champions League.
Reports differ on when the 48-year-old Argentinian delivered the devastating news to his players. Some said he had told them a few days ago, others said he did so during half-time of yesterday morning's (Singapore time) Group E home clash, while his side were trailing 3-0.
It may help explain Sevilla's fightback, which saw Wissam Ben Yedder bag a brace and Guido Pizarro net a stoppage-time equaliser to snatch a 3-3 draw.
A statement released by the club yesterday said: "Future examinations will lead to a decision over what steps to follow in his treatment.
"Sevilla wants to offer their maximum support to the coach in these moments and wish him a quick recovery."
Berizzo, a former centre back for River Plate, Marseille and Celta Vigo, is in his first season at Sevilla after three impressive years in charge of Celta Vigo.
After the match, Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega paid tribute to Berizzo for inspiring the side to pull off the stunning turnaround.
He said: "It was a crazy game. We went into the changing room knowing that if we tried, then we could pull it off. That's how we have to play every game.
"We have to go out there with that attitude, for the fans that always back us and for the coach who has turned this around.
"He is the most important of all of us, he is on the right path and we are with him to the hilt."
When asked what he told the players during the break, Berizzo did not mention anything about breaking the news of his health to the players.
Instead, he said that he had demanded from the team a positive energy in the second period.
He said: "I told them that they had to play with soul, that there wasn't a mistake they couldn't make up for.
"We had to go out with a different energy and the crowd believed in us, the team went out and went for them, and spurred on 50,000 people."
"The team played and experienced an unforgettable and exciting match against an opponent we didn't allow to use their midfield," added the coach.
"We showed our competitive streak, that animal that we have inside of us. We took the risk and that says a lot about the bravery of these players."
Sevilla fullback Sergio Escudero claimed that his side would have even won the match had it gone on for "five minutes" more.
Crediting the home fans for giving them "that push", he said: "If the match had lasted five minutes more... we had so much confidence, the team and the fans were on a high and we could have even got a fourth."
Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp defended his side's mental strength despite crumbling under the pressure.
He cited a lack of Champions League experience in recent seasons for the way they folded after a Roberto Firmino double either side of Sadio Mane's header had given them a 3-0 lead inside half an hour.
"It is not perfect tonight but it is not a general problem," said the German.
"It just happened. In this atmosphere, we need to get more and more experience. Could we have done better? 100 per cent, but do I think it is a mentality problem? 100 per cent not."
The draw still leaves Liverpool top of the group, but they still need a point when they host Spartak Moscow next month to book their place in the last 16 for the first time in nine seasons.
Sevilla, a point behind the Reds, visit Slovenian outfit Maribor in their last group match. - WIRE SERVICES