By FRANCO PANIZO
On the brink of a severely demoralizing elimination, Sevilla saw their UEFA Europa League dreams rescued by Stephane M’Bia.
M’Bia scored a last-gasp goal that pushed Sevilla past Valencia and through to the tournament final on the away-goals rule on Thursday. Sevilla lost the decisive semifinals road leg, 3-1, but the late heroics from M’Bia gave the club the advantage on a 3-3 aggregate scoreline.
An inspired Valencia side initially looked to have pulled off a stunning comeback. After losing 2-0 in the first leg last week, the hosts got even through a strike from Sofiane Feghouli and an own goal from Beto in the first half. Valencia then took their first lead of the series via a Jeremy Mathieu goal in the 69th minute, but it was all for naught.
Five minutes into stoppage time and just moments before the final whistle, M’Bia rose up to thunder home a header for Sevilla. The goal destroyed Valencia’s impressive comeback and eliminated them from the competition in the cruelest of fashions.
In the other semifinals match:
Benfica lost a man but held on for a scoreless draw at Juventus that booked the Portuguese powerhouse’s place in the final. Juventus had a man advantage after Enzo Perez was sent off with his second booking in six minutes in the 67th minute, but the Italian club never found the goal that would have advanced it to the final.
Juventus had lost, 2-1, in the opening leg, but would have booked their place in the final (that is being played at their home stadium) on away goals had they scored on Thursday.
Benfica and Sevilla will meet in the Europa League final at Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy, on May 14.
What did you think of the Europa League semifinals second legs? Surprised Sevilla and Benfica both advanced given the situations they found themselves in on Thursday? Who do you see winning the final?
Share your thoughts below.