EL: Mbia breaks Valencia hearts

Stephane Mbia’s 94th minute goal for Sevilla broke Valencia hearts and sent Unai Emery’s team through to the Europa League final on away goals.

It was a cruel blow to Los Che, who were by far the better side on the night and mounted a heroic comeback to turn a 2-0 aggregate deficit into a 3-2 lead.

Nevertheless, the Cameroonian midfielder’s intervention in added time levelled the scores but sent the Rojiblancos through on away goals.

It was a valiant effort by Los Che, who came into the match with recent history of having recovered from seemingly hopeless situations. They turned around a 3-0 deficit to win 5-3 on aggregate against Swiss side Basel in the quarter-finals.

A pre-match crowd mosaic by Valencia fans, spelling out the words ‘Si se puede’ [‘Yes we can’ in English], clearly showed that the home crowd had not yet given up hope and they created a cauldron of an atmosphere as the players took to the field.

The decibel level within the ground clearly inspired the hosts, who tore into Unai Emery’s visitors from the first whistle. Striker Jonas’ shot within the first 90 seconds of the match was saved by Sevilla goalkeeper Beto, but that was merely a warning sign of what was to come.

Valencia continued their high tempo start and got their reward on 14 minutes. Some neat interplay ended with Eduardo Vargas threading a pass through to Sofiane Feghouli. The Algerian confidently cut in onto his left foot before arrowing the ball beyond the helpless Beto to send the home crowd wild.

Los Che had their tails up and sensed a repeat of their famous comeback against Basel. Beto saved well from Jonas before Jeremy Mathieu wasted a promising position by firing over from the left.

The second goal arrived though and when it did it came from a familiar source. Juan Bernat’s cross from the left was met by Jonas, who powered a header home off the inside of the post.

The Mestalla was now a crescendo of noise but on 36 minutes, Jose Antonio Reyes should have put the Andalusian visitors back ahead on aggregate. All alone in the six-yard box, he got on the end of a loose ball but his side-footed finish was somehow kept out by the diving Diego Alves.

Bernat went close to unbelievably giving Valencia an aggregate lead before half time but his effort shortly before the break went just wide.

The second period, to the relief of the visitors, began in slightly more subdued fashion as neither side was able to fashion a clear cut chance.

That suited the Rojiblancos more as they finally went about establishing a foothold in the game.

Nevertheless, it was Los Che who continued to have the upper hand in terms of both possession and territory, though they could not maintain the blistering tempo of the first half.

The third and seemingly decisive goal for the hosts arrived on 70 minutes. The Rojiblancos failed to deal with a corner properly, allowing Mathieu to fire home from close range to send the Mestalla into a state of utter delirium.

Emery tried to respond and threw on Alberto Moreno and Marko Marin as his side chased the one goal they knew would take them through to the final at the expense of their hosts.

Valencia brought on Javi Fuego for Dani Parejo as they looked to hold on to their slender lead and it was a tactic that appeared to be working as Sevilla struggled to create a clear chance.

However, just when all seemed lost for the Andalusians, fourth official Dejan Petrovic added five minutes of injury time.

In the fourth of these, the Rojiblancos forced a throw in deep in the Valencia half, which was taken long.

Centre back Federico Fazio flicked it on and Mbia made no mistake, burying an unstoppable header beyond the despairing dive of Alves.

There was barely time for the match to restart before referee Milorad Mazic’s final whistle sounded to the joy of the visiting fans.

They can now look forward to the final in Turin, where they will face Benfica. For Valencia, it was very much a case of so close, yet so far.

Valencia 3 – 1 Sevilla

Feghouli 14 (V), Jonas 26 (V), Mathieu 70 (V), Mbia 90+4 (S)

Valencia: Alves; Joao Pereira, Ricardo Costa, Mathieu, Bernat; Dani Parejo (Javi Fuego 79), Keita; Feghouli, Vargas, Piatti (Nicolas Cartabia 62); Jonas

Sevilla: Beto; Coke, Pareja, Fazio, Navarro (Moreno 72); Mbia, Carrico; Vitolo, Rakitic, Reyes (Marin 79); Bacca (Gameiro 66)

Referee: Mazic

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