by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 1st 2014)
A Stephane Mbia header in the last minute of injury time put Sevilla through on away goals at the historic Mestalla Stadium tonight. Despite restricting Sevilla to just one note-worthy chance, overturning the two-goal deficit from the first leg and taking the lead the famous victory eluded them and probably has cost los Ches European football next season.
“When we saw five minutes on the board, we believed we could do it,” former Chelsea and Werder Bremen winger Marco Marin said. “We were the better side. You always have to believe.” He expected the Turin crowd to support Sevilla after hearing that Benfica had eliminated Juventus from playing in the final in their own stadium.
Unai Emery believed that his team had a big advantage going into tonight’s second leg, but that advantage was wiped out in less than half an hour with goals from Sofiane Feghouli and Jonas Gonçalves. The quarter-final miracle against Basel looked on the cards again when defender Jérémy Mathieu swept in the third from close range after 70 minutes after Ricardo Costa nodded substitute Federico Cartabia’s corner. Mestalla was rocking after that.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Andalusia, Valencia took an early lead through Sofiane Feghouli. The French-born Algerian international was found on the right of the area by Eduardo Vargas, cut inside. His shot deflected off Coke, giving Beto no chance. After 16 minutes the Mestalla faithful left the team and coach Juan Antonio Pizzi in no doubt that they believed the come-back was on. Ten minutes later the miracle looked as if it was going to happen. Brasilian striker Jonas Gonçalves – a bargain acquisition last season – equalised on aggregate with a powerful effort off the crossbar that rebounded off Beto into his own net – technically an own-goal. Juan Bernat’s excellent cross from the left wing provided the assist.
A delightful back-heel by Colombian striker Carlos Bacca set up former Arsenal winger José Antonio Reyes to tap into an empty net, but somehow Diego Alves pulled off a miraculous save. The expression on Reyes’ face said it all. The Mestalla faithful truly believed. With 20 minutes remaining Valencia took the lead for the first time in the tie through Mathieu.
Smash and Grab
It appeared that Valencia were heading to Turin, but a seemingly innocuous throw in that Valencia had defended competently all night proved the undoing of los Ches. It wasn’t cleared. Federico Fazio nodded it on and Mbia’s header finally beat the seemingly invincible Alves and send Sevilla through on away goals.
Emery’s team will face Jorge Jesus’ Benfica. Jesus will be hoping to go one better than his team managed last year. This year – the 65th anniversary of the dreadful Superga Disaster – was poignant for Jesus and Benfica. They were the last team to play against the legendary il Grande Torino – one of if not the greatest club side ever to play the beautiful game. While Jesus has a prickly reputation, he made it clear that not only Benfica fans, but the team also would pay their respects to the great Torino team. At least one half of Turin will be cheering the Reds on.