Real Betis held their nerve to win a penalty shootout 5-4 and edge out Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday after a thrilling contest had ended 1-1 following extra time at a packed La Cartuja stadium.
In a classic free-flowing encounter full of goalscoring chances and remarkable saves, it was hard to separate the two sides who maintained a frantic pace throughout the 120 minutes.
Yunus Musah missed Valencia’s fourth spot-kick to give Betis a 5-4 win on penalties.
Earlier, Hugo Duro’s 30th-minute goal had canceled out Borja Iglesias’ opener for Betis.
Real Betis’ breathtaking win in their Seville hometown secured them their first major trophy since they won the same title in 2005.
It was a well fought clash of styles between Betis’s possession-based, attacking mentality and Valencia’s solid defensive block and vertical speedy transitions on the counter-attack.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side dominated possession with Copa del Rey top goalscorer and final’s MVP Borja Iglesias as the main threat, but Valencia was a constant menace to their opponents on the counter-attack, with Hugo Duro creating all kinds of trouble to Betis’ defense.
“To win this title after so many years at our town and in-front our fans is a wonderful thing,” captain Joaquin told reporters in tears before lifting the trophy and becoming the first player to win two titles with Betis’ colors as he was in the field 17 years ago.
“I think it is the work of many years, of getting things little by little, building from a lot of effort. Congratulations to Valencia because if they had won they would be deserved winners, it was an amazing game.”
The 40-year-old Joaquin announced last November that this would be his final season after 21 consecutive years of top-flight football and will leave after helping his beloved Betis to win only their fourth title as they have only won the 1935 League, the 1977 Cup and the aforementioned 2005 Cup in their 115-year history.
Betis started strong and Iglesias’ opener came 11 minutes into the game with a close-range header into the roof of the net from a perfectly placed cross from the right touchline by former Arsenal flaker Eric Bellerin.
When the locals looked in control, Hugo Duro scored the equalizer with a lightning fast counter-attack started by Ilaix Moriba who delivered a brilliant through pass to Duro in space behind Betis’ defensive line. The striker entered the area unchallenged and lobbed the ball over Claudio Bravo to score with an ice-cold touch with his left-foot from him.
Betis almost scored a few minutes later as a powerful long-range strike from Sergio Canales exploded off Giorgi Mamardashvili’s left post.
Valencia came back on fire after the break and had three clear chances to score in the first eight minutes, with Bravo making two incredible stops from Duro and Moriba missing another one well wide from inside the box.
But Betis slowly took back control and made plenty of chances of their own, with Mamardashvili shining with at least four brilliant stops in the final minutes of regulation, holding the deadlock to extra-time.
With players exhausted after 90 minutes of non-stop action, both teams took a step back in extra time and the game went to a penalty shootout, where the 19-year-old American midfielder was the only one to miss.
“Soccer is very beautiful but it is also very cruel sometimes,” Valencia captain Jose Gaya told reporters.
“It’s doubly sad because we lost the cup and a chance to qualify for the Europa League. We leave here today very disappointed, although very proud.”
Fernando Kallas from Reuters
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.