VALENCIA, Spain (AP) - Stephane Mbia scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time for Sevilla to make the Europa League final despite a 3-1 loss at Valencia on Thursday.
Valencia looked set to play in the May 14 final in Turin until Mbia’s dramatic header to secure Sevilla’s place on away goals, after the two-leg semifinal ended 3-3.
Sevilla, which plays for the trophy for the first time since winning a second straight title in 2007, faces Benfica after last year’s finalist drew 0-0 at Juventus to keep this year’s final host out by advancing 2-1 overall.
“It was very hard, they played so well and it was so hard to win here. But we knew just one goal,” a stunned Mbia told Cuatro TV as he was overcome with emotion like players from both teams after the final whistle. “Unbelievable.”
Valencia started its rally in the 14th when Sofiane Feghouli’s left-footed curler took a touch to get past goalkeeper Beto, who pushed Jonas’ powerful 26th-minute header off the underside of the bar, but it bounced back into goal off the Sevilla goalie.
Jeremy Mathieu jumped on a loose ball inside the area to rocket home Valencia’s third goal into the roof of the net in the 69th as the hosts looked to complete a second successive comeback at its Mestalla Stadium after rallying from a 3-0 deficit to beat Basel 5-0 to come through the last round.
But Valencia was left shocked as Mbia rose to power home in the waning moments to deny Valencia a return to the final 10 years after it last won.
No team lasted as long as Sevilla in the competition after the Andalucian side started in the third qualifying round when Malaga and Rayo Vallecano were denied a place by UEFA for financial problems. Sevilla had finished below them in the Spanish standings.
“We had few opportunities but we had good ones,” Sevilla coach Unai Emery said. “We harnessed the spirit of (Andres) Palop,” the former Sevilla ‘keeper whose own late-game heroics helped Sevilla win back-to-back titles in 2006 and ‘07 when the competition was known as the UEFA Cup.
Benfica denied Juventus the chance to play the final at its home stadium as the Portuguese champion gets another chance at the trophy one year after losing to Chelsea.
“The rival is the rival, what matters is the final,” said Emery, who previously had coached Valencia. “It’s a great team, it eliminated Juventus.”
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