Stephane Mbia scored a dramatic goal deep in stoppage time to send Sevilla to the UEFA Europa League final despite a 3-1 loss at Valencia on Thursday evening in the second leg of their semi-final tie.
Valencia had erased a two-goal deficit from the first leg in 26 first-half minutes via Sofiane Feghouli and a Beto own goal. The hosts then took the lead on aggregate in the 70th minute as Jeremy Mathieu slammed in from close range.
But with the final seconds ticking away on Sevilla's European campaign, Mbia headed in a late goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time, levelling the tie at 3-3 on aggregate and sending the visitors through by virtue of the lone away goal.
Sevilla will meet Benfica in the final on May 14 at Juventus Stadium in Turin. The Portuguese side eliminated Juventus following a scoreless draw in Italy, setting up an all-Iberian final.
In the showpiece event, Sevilla will try to claim their fourth European trophy following back-to-back UEFA Cup wins in 2006 and 2007, and the UEFA Super Cup in 2006.
Trailing by two goals after the first leg, Valencia needed goals quickly in order to turn around the second leg. The first came in the 14th minute after Eduardo Vargas freed Feghouli on the right side of Sevilla's box. Feghouli cut inside before firing his deflected shot past Beto for a 1-0 Valencia lead.
The goal reduced the hosts' aggregate deficit to a single goal, and only 12 minutes later they were level.
A flowing team move saw the ball spread to Juan Bernat on the left. Bernat curled in a cross for Jonas, who powered his header on target at the near post. The ball bounced off the underside of the crossbar and in off Sevilla goalkeeper Beto, who was charged with an own goal.
With that, Sevilla's two-goal advantage from the first leg had disappeared. Valencia had all the momentum, but Sevilla came close to retaking control in the 36th minute when Carlos Bacca set up Jose Antonio Reyes with a clever back-heel.
Reyes, unmarked at the back post, seemed destined to score, but Diego Alves raced across his line to save brilliantly.
Still leading 2-0 at half-time, Valencia had a chance to go ahead on aggregate early in the second half after winning a free-kick in a dangerous position outside Sevilla's box. Dani Parejo curled his shot over the wall, but it flew off target in the 47th minute.
Two minutes later Parejo picked out Pablo Piatti with a free-kick into Sevilla's box, but Piatti shot wide.
Sevilla then enjoyed a brief positive spell before Valencia resumed the attack. In the 59th minute, Jonas headed off target, giving Sevilla a momentary respite. But it didn't last long, Valencia finally scoring their crucial third goal 11 minutes later.
Ricardo Costa swung in a corner from the left, and after the ball bounced in Sevilla's box, Mathieu slammed into the net from close range. The goal put Valencia ahead 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate, but Sevilla still needed only one goal to advance on the away-goals rule.
And just when it seemed Sevilla were finished, Mbia popped up with the decisive goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Coke sent a long throw-in into the box, where Federico Fazio headed on to Mbia, who finished with a header past Alves.
Sevilla's players and coaches celebrated wildly while Valencia's crumpled in agony. Within moments the final whistle sounded, sending Sevilla to the final after an improbable escape.
|Valencia Player Ratings|
|Fede (for Piatti, 62')||N/A||6|
|Javi Fuego (for Parejo, 79')||N/A||6|
|Antonio Barragan (for Jonas, 85')||N/A||6|
|Sevilla Player Ratings|
|Jose Antonio Reyes||2||3|
|Kevin Gameiro (for Bacca, 66')||N/A||6|
|Alberto Moreno (for Navarro, 72')||N/A||6|
|Marko Marin (for Reyes, 79')||N/A||6|
An emotional Mbia said his late goal was his "happiest moment." As quoted by Inside Spanish Football, Mbia said: "This goal is for my family, for my mother and my father. I’m so emotional. This is the happiest moment of my life. It was important for us to get to Turin, after we’d worked so hard."
Mbia added: "I feel so happy because the tie had become so hard of us and it was difficult to play here. We’ve very happy and the goal was incredible."
Both teams return to La Liga on Sunday, when Valencia play at Real Madrid and Sevilla host Villarreal.
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