Valencia salvage away draw with Betis in Copa del Rey tie
Seville (Spain), Feb 8 (IANS) Valencia fell behind 0-2 to Real Betis in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie before rallying for a 2-2 draw.
Roughly 700 Valencia supporters were among the more than 57,000 people in the stands at Sevilla's Benito Villamarin stadium on Thursday for the contest between the two evenly matched opponents separated by just 2 points in La Liga, reports Efe news.
Betis suffered a setback in the 10th minute when defender Marc Bartra, who failed to finish last weekend's La Liga match against Atletico Madrid due to injury, found himself unable to continue.
The departure of Bartra, who was replaced by Javi Garcia, seemed to create a greater opening in the midfield for Valencia and the visiting side threatened on successive occasions approaching the half-hour mark.
But Betis keeper Joel Robles proved equal to the challenge, thwarting Rodrigo Moreno and Santi Mina, and the first goal of the night belonged to the hosts.
In the final minute of the first-half regulation time, Sidnei da Silva flicked on a Sergio Canales cross to Loren Moron, who headed in to put Betis up 1-0.
Joaquin Sanchez doubled the advantage for Betis nine minutes into the second half with a so-called Olympic goal: a corner kick that enters the net without any intervening touch.
Chief official Carlos del Cerro Grande confirmed the goal after consulting with the video assistant referee (VAR), which seemed to amplify the negative impact on Valencia's collective psyche.
As the match entered the final 30 minutes with Betis in hot pursuit of a third goal, Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral went for a double substitution: Geoffrey Kongdobia for Francis Coquelin in midfield and Kevin Gameiro for Mina up front.
The Valencia reaction began to take shape in the 70th minute with a goal by Denis Cheryshev that energized the squad.
The Russian had a chance to bring his team level minutes later, but his header bounced off the post, and it was left to Gameiro to secure the draw with a goal in stoppage time.
The 2-2 deadlock in Seville follows Wednesday's 1-1 draw between Barcelona and Real Madrid in the other semi final first leg, generating plenty of suspense ahead of the respective second legs on February 27-28.
Among the final four, Barça - going for a fifth consecutive title - have won the Copa del Rey 30 times, while Real Madrid have hoisted the trophy 19 times.
Betis are two-time winners, most recently in 2005, and Valencia have seven Copa del Rey championships to their credit.