24th April, 2014
Sevilla took a huge step towards reaching the Europa League final as they beat La Liga rivals Valencia 2-0 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Thursday.
The hosts went ahead in controversial circumstances as Stephane Mbia backheeled the ball into the roof of the net despite clearly being in an offside position before Carlos Bacca doubled Sevilla’s advantage soon after.
Valencia were thankful to goalkeeper Vicente Guaita for not falling further behind as he made fine saves from Federico Fazio and Bacca.
However, Los Che came within inches of a vital away goal three minutes from time when Eduardo Vargas’ header came crashing off the crossbar.
Sevilla came into the game in great form having won 12 of their last 15 games in all competitions and started brightly.
Valencia were rightly aggrieved by the manner in which the opening goal came about on 33 minutes as Mbia was well offside when he latched onto Daniel Carrico’s flick-on from Ivan Rakitic’s free-kick at the back post and the Cameroonian adjusted his feet well to flick the ball past the helpless Guaita.
Three minutes later it was 2-0 as a lovely one-two between Vitolo and Bacca freed the Colombian to fire home his 21st goal of the season.
Guaita then made fine saves from a Fazio header and Bacca as he was played clean through on goal by Rakitic either side of half-time.
And Valencia came tantalisingly close to halving the deficit twice late on as Jonas’ fierce effort was parried by Beto before Vargas’ looping heder came back off the bar.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men will therefore have a mountain to climb next Thursday at the Mestalla, but can take inspiration from their quarter-final comeback against Basel as they overturned a 3-0 deficit with a stunning 5-0 win at home in the second leg.