Despite enjoying the home advantage, Valencia were never expected to get past FC Barcelona on aggregates in the second-leg semifinal of Copa del Rey. To overhaul the 0-7 deficit was a tall order. Luis Enrique exploited the situation and included a number of second-rung players in his starting line-up. They couldn’t beat Valencia but the 1-1 draw was more than enough to take them to the finals. In three months’ time, Barcelona will play Sevilla FC in the final of Copa del Rey. On Thursday night, Sevilla drew 2-2 with Celta Vigo and that gave them a 6-2 victory on aggregates. Incidentally the two Spanish clubs met for three times in one week. After playing the first leg semifinal, Sevilla and Celta also had a La Liga fixture during the week that ended in a 1-1 draw. Though the decision regarding the venue of May 21st final is still pending, defending champions Barcelona look favorite to win another Copa del Rey title, having already won it on 27 previous occasions. Sevilla are also 5-time title winners but this is their first appearance in the final after 2010, when they had won their 5th title.
Luis Enrique was not worried even after leaving out his top stars for the second-leg semifinal against Valencia on Wednesday night. After the 7-0 first-leg advantage, Enrique got a chance to try out his rookies. The Barcelona coach made another surprising move by asking his fullbacks to play in the forward line. Sergi Roberto played a central role in midfield and Barcelona had the ball as the first-half got underway. With Roberto calling the shots, Aleix Vidal and Munir El-Haddadi looked dangerous. But as the first few minutes passed, steam went out of Barcelona’s game. Riding on the raucous home support, Valencia stole the initiative from the faltering Barca forwards. The play shifted in Barcelona’s half as Valencia pressed hard with a dominant stance. The reward came after FCB’s Rakitic wasted a corner in the 38th minute and Valencia went for a quick counter. A long ball from Valencia defense fell to a racing Negredo, who lobbed it over Ter Stegen. However, Barcelona goalkeeper’s weak deflection came to Negredo yet again. This time, the Valencia forward made no mistake in tapping the ball home. The teams went to halftime with the score reading 7-1 on aggregate in Barcelona’s favor.
Even after halftime, Barcelona could not raise their game and Valencia still looked a better side for most part. Barca forwards did nothing spectacular in creating any goal-scoring opportunities but somehow managed to equalize in the 81st minute, when substitutes came on. Douglas Pereira sent a beautiful ball to a racing Juan Camara, whose cross was converted into the goal by Kaptoum. Barcelona won 8-1 on aggregates and booked their third straight final in Copa del Rey. More importantly for Enrique, he derived satisfaction from Barcelona completing their 29th match without being beaten. In the title clash on May 21, Barca will meet Sevilla, who defeated Celta Vigo 6-2 on aggregates.
Making most of the home advantage, Celta sailed to a 2-0 lead with both goals coming from Iago Aspas in 35th and 55th minutes. But Celta’s chances of reversing the 0-4 first-leg deficit didn’t look very bright as Sevilla pulled one back, when Sevilla’s Ever Banega dampened the home team’s spirits with the 57th minute goal. Celta did their best in pouring rain as screaming home fans at Vigo’s Balaidos stadium egged them on. But after their Swedish striker John Guidetti missed a 60th-minute penalty, all hopes for the home side were lost. In the 87th minute, Sevilla’s Ukrainian recruit Yevhen Konoplyanka brought the scores level at 2-2 and Sevilla earned the berth in the final of the Copa del Rey.
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