Valencia brush aside Barcelona to reach King’s Cup final

March 21st, 2008 - 12:35 pm ICT by admin  

Madrid, March 21 (DPA) Valencia put aside all their internal problems to reach the final of the Spanish King’s Cup football with a vibrant 3-2 defeat of brittle Barcelona. Valencia win the semi-final on a 4-3 aggregate, having forced a 1-1 draw in Barcelona in the first leg three weeks ago. They will meet Getafe in the final, the unfashionable Madrid club, who eliminated Racing Santander in the other semi-final Wednesday.

Valencia’s pulsating victory Thursday - with two goals from youngster Juan Mata - will give some breathing space to coach Ronald Koeman, at the same time as piling up the pressure on embattled Barca boss Frank Rijkaard.

The defeat will confirm the sensation that Rijkaard’s time on the Barca bench is coming to a frustrating end.

Koeman clearly won the tactical battle between the former Holland team-mates, with an intelligent counter-attacking strategy that allowed Barca to dominate possession - but then hit them sharply at the break.

Veteran captain Ruben Baraja gave Valencia the lead in the 18th minute with a powerful left-foot drive into the top corner. The early goal warmed up the long-suffering Mestalla faithful, who got behind their team as they have not done all season.

Once again, Barca were looking slow and ponderous, with Valencia prepared to sit back and soak up the imprecise pressure.

The Catalans sorely missed injured stars Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Deco.

Mata made it 2-0 a minute before half-time with a cool near post shot, after a rapid counter had led to David Villa setting him free down the left.

In the 72nd minute substitute Thierry Henry gave Barca hope by heading in a centre from Sylvinho. But just 40 seconds later Mata made it 3-1 by volleying in a clever centre from David Silva.

Samuel Eto’o pulled another goal back for Barca 10 minutes from time, with his left foot, which led to a frenetic, bad-tempered and tense finale.

There was more relief than joy at the final whistle, with the Mestalla crowd relieved that their expensive team had salvaged something from a traumatic and torrid season which, a month ago, seemed to be heading for complete disaster.

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