A glorious long-range effort from Goncalo Guedes was the headline as Valencia made it to the 2022 Copa del Rey final.
Coming in the 43rd minute, a set-piece was cleared to Guedes about 25 yards from goal. The Portuguese didn’t hesitate – touching the ball in front of him before rasping his shot into the top corner.
Just moments earlier, Athletic striker Inaki Williams had passed up a glorious opportunity to give the Basques the lead in the tie. Released into space behind the Valencia defence, Williams couldn’t get his shot off before Giorgi Mamardashvili came out to smother his shot. A moment that will probably linger painfully in the minds of Athletic Club supporters.
The hosts had started on the front foot, with the livewire Bryan Gil causing trouble early on. On-loan from Tottenham Hotspur, the winger was a constant thorn in the side of a sturdy Athletic defence. Having seen their storm weathered, Valencia were dealt a severe blow when captain Jose Gaya was forced off with injury. Yet through Guedes’ strike they recovered their enthusiasm, taking a 2-1 aggregate lead into the break.
Mestalla was hostile, ear-splitting and joyous in the second half as Athletic did their best to break down Valencia. Propelled by the home crowd and comforted by the knowledge that a clean sheet would see them through to the final, Valencia held steady.
Despite Iker Muniain’s best efforts, some very good ones too, Athletic couldn’t create much danger. Oihan Sancet also made an impact off the bench, helping to force Valencia back.
Ultimately though, it wasn’t enough. Athletic Club’s painful relationship with the Copa del Rey continues and their drought stretches to 38 years without savouring victory.
Valencia descended into chaos on the pitch and delirium off it. A club that has suffered plenty finally has good cause to celebrate. Jose Bordalas has a chance at his first major trophy. And in Goncalo Guedes, Valencia have a star.
Image by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images.