La Liga – Valencia stun Barca in Copa
Valencia stunned Barcelona 3-2 at the Mestalla to reach the Copa del Rey final 4-3 on aggregate.
Barca, who had scrambled an injury-time equaliser to draw 1-1 in the first leg, were hit by a Ruben Baraja piledriver and a breakaway goal from Juan Mata before halftime in an intense encounter they dominated throughout.
Substitute Thierry Henry pulled one back for Barca in the second half only for Mata to bag his second almost immediately and, although a late Samuel Eto’o goal set up a grandstand finish, it was to no avail.
The victory relieves some of the pressure on coach Ronald Koeman who has seen Valencia drop out of Europe and the league title race since he replaced Quique Sanchez Flores in November.
“It’s ridiculous to say your fortunes change because of one game, but all teams need a little breathing space and hopefully this victory give us that,” said Koeman.
“It’s a great night for Valencia who have suffered a lot recently.”
Valencia will meet Getafe on April 16, with a place in next season’s UEFA Cup up for grabs, after Michael Laudrup’s side booked a second consecutive appearance in the final with a 4-2 aggregate victory over Racing Santander on Wednesday.
The game followed the pattern of the first leg at the Nou Camp with Valencia successfully packing the midfield and looking to hit the visitors on the break.
Gabriel Milito‘s header from a corner was pushed against the crossbar early on as Barca pressed forward, but the opener came at the other end when midfielder Baraja scored with a rasping drive from outside the area in the 18th minute.
The 24-times winners struggled to pass their way through Valencia’s massed ranks and were hit in a swift counter-attack a minute before the break when David Villa fed Mata to finish inside the near post.
Frank Rijkaard turned to Henry after the restart and the France striker headed in off the post from Silvinho’s cross in the 72nd minute, but almost immediately David Silva escaped on the right and crossed for Mata to volley past Victor Valdes.
Barca threw bodies forward and Cameroon striker Eto’o broke into the area to curl the ball inside the far post with 10 minutes remaining but it was not enough to stop Barca going out in the semis for the second season running.