Valencia (Spain), March 1 (IANS) Rodrigo Moreno’s goal early in the second half proved to be enough for Valencia to claim a 1-0 victory over Real Betis and win 3-2 on aggregate in their Copa del Rey semifinal tie.
Thursday’s battle for the right to face four-time defending champions Barcelona in the May 25 final was ultimately decided by the hosts’ effectiveness on the counter, Efe news reported.
Betis, who started the night in need of a goal after having to settle for a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Seville, were ambitious but not reckless.
The visitors had the edge on possession and enjoyed the three clearest opportunities of the opening period, providing some reason for hope among the roughly 2,000 travelling Betis supporters in the crowd of 45,200 spectators at the Mestalla.
While Jaume Domenech dealt easily with a strike by Joaquin, the Valencia goalkeeper had to be sharp to turn aside a Sergio Canales free kick and a subsequent effort from Jese.
The home side struggled to mount any kind of attack. Goncalo Guedes flew forward to no effect and Rodrigo and Kevin Gameiro were stymied by a lack of service.
Betis left no open space at the back for Valencia to exploit and kept the ball away from playmaking midfielder Dani Parejo.
The clubs went to the dressing rooms with the aggregate score unchanged at 2-2, advantage Valencia.
Betis started the second half with no added sense of urgency, but that would change with Rodrigo’s goal in the 56th minute, which came as the culmination of an attack launched by defender Cristiano Piccini, with the final assist coming from Gameiro.
Taking the lead inspired Valencia, who started to enjoy a lot more time with the ball, prompting visiting coach Quique Setien to send in Loren Moren as an additional attacker in the 65th minute.
It was all Betis for the final 15 minutes and Valencia rarely ventured out of their own end, but the visitors failed to convert their desperation into goals.
Real Betis will be disappointed not to be on the field for the final, to be played on their home turf at Benito Villamarin stadium in Seville.
Valencia, who have hoisted the Copa del Rey trophy seven times, face the task of denying 30-time winners Barcelona a fifth consecutive triumph in the competition.