Kevin Gameiro scored in stoppage time for Valencia at the Benito Villamarin in Seville, as Los Che fought back from two goals down in their Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Real Betis.
Joaquin had earlier scored a remarkable goal from a corner-kick early in the second half – netting against his former side, as Betis doubled their lead following Loren Moron late first-half goal, before Los Che battled back in last half hour.
Denis Cheryshev converted Gameiro’s cross in the 70th-minute, before the latter struck late to stun Los Verdiblancos.
Valencia’s second half double sees the visitors grab the advantage ahead of the return leg at the Mestalla in three weeks’ time, with a spot in next month’s final up for grabs.
Loren breaks deadlock on half-time
It was an opening period largely dominated in possession by the hosts, with Los Che piling on the pressure in the midfield, but the presence of Rodrigo and Santi Mina – the latter of whom had netted four times in this season’s Copa – had yet to convert into a goal.
For large parts, Betis’ creativity had been snuffed out, but as the interval ticked closer, Sergio Canales was finding the ball for longer spells and almost created an opening for Loren, but the Spanish forward could not reach the midfielder’s knock down.
Valencia still looked the more likely to break through, with Joel Robles forced to deny the visitors with a number of stops. With the half-time whistle imminent however, the hosts struck.
After Betis won their first corner of the match, Joaquin’s whipped delivery from the right was flicked on and found Sidnei at the far post.
The Brazilian then redirected his glancing header across the goal, with Loren on hand to pounce, nodding past Jaume Domenech to give Los Verdiblancos the lead at the break.
Freak Joaquin second
With Marcelino’s men in arrears, Los Che perhaps unsurprisingly raced out of the traps. Mina slid his shot narrowly wide in a challenge with Joel, before Cristian Piccini’s low cross was deflected narrowly wide of the Betis near post.
As Valencia went in search of an equaliser, just like in the opening half, the hosts then doubled their advantage in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Betis drove at their opponents and won a corner. As Joaquin stepped up to send the ball into the area, the veteran Spaniard curled his delivery into the area, forcing Domenech to claw the ball out at his near post.
Chaos ensued in the Valencia penalty area, before Ezequiel Garay cleared his lines.
Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande however was alerted to an incident by VAR, with replays showing Joaquin’s corner-kick had remarkably crossed the line. Benito Villamarin exploded into noise.
Gameiro introduction stuns Betis
Marcelino rung the changes and with twenty minutes to play, the men in navy shirts had a foothold in the tie. Substitute Gameiro found space on the left wing and the Frenchman sent in a cross that the the Betis defence struggled to deal with.
As Sidnei battled with Cheryshev to win the ball, the Russian beat his man to the ball and glanced the ball into the far corner, with the merest of flicked headers.
With a second leg at the Mestalla to play at the end of the month, Valencia sought to level the game in the remaining quarter of an hour.
Both sides seemed happy to settle with a 2-1 scoreline, before it was again a delivery from Gameiro that found Cheryshev, only for one of the World Cup’s home stars to thunder a header against the bar and away from danger.
Valencia were not to be denied an equaliser however, as in the dying moments as the game moved into stoppage time, Gameiro was then on the right end of a cross – this time as converter.
The Frenchman, who has yet to fully hit form since his move from Atletico Madrid, was the man in the right place to slot home into the Betis net from close range to silence Benito Villamarin.
That fourth and late goal of a pulsating game in Andalusia leaves the visitors slight favourites for the return leg, but Betis too will be eyeing a place in the final against either Real Madrid or Barcelona next month.