SEVILLE, Spain – Sevilla advanced to the Copa del Rey championship match for the ninth time, securing a 3-1 victory on aggregate over surprise semifinalist Leganes thanks to a 2-0 win in Wednesday night’s second leg.
Despite the two-goal margin of victory, the five-time champions of this Spanish cup competition struggled to put away a pesky opponent that was one goal from forcing extra time until Franco Vazquez scored Sevilla’s second goal in the 89th minute.
With the aggregate score at 1-1 coming into Wednesday’s contest at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, both sides took the field with an attacking mentality and that opened up space for an early goal.
That score came at the quarter-hour mark of the first half, when Argentine Joaquin Correa finished off a play set up by Colombian striker Luis Muriel’s superb individual effort.
Muriel first created danger by working around one defender near the goal line; his initial pass was then deflected off his chest, but he alertly raced over a few steps to claim the ball and boot it over to Correa, who slotted home a left-footed shot from close range.
That early score was crucial, yet little changed in terms of the play on the field, with Sevilla still wanting an insurance goal and the visitors even more determined to attack.
The action heated up toward the end of the first half, when the Madrid side put together a pair of forays into Sevilla’s territory and Leganes defender Tito denied two potential scores – by Ever Banega and Sergio Escudero – with stops at the goal mouth.
The visitors pushed forward more in the second half and won the ball-possession battle, but the home side also was able to find some more space to operate.
With the clock winding down, Leganes remained unable to put Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico under serious pressure; the home club, meanwhile, was still holding on to its tenuous 2-1 lead on aggregate.
That changed in the 89th minute, when Vazquez fired a blast into the roof of the goal to the delight of the roughly 40,000 fans in attendance.
“Everyone’s pleased and happy after some moments in (this season’s) campaign that haven’t gone well,” Correa said afterward, referring to Sevilla’s No. 6 spot in the La Liga standings.
Looking ahead to the April 21 final against either FC Barcelona or Valencia (the Catalans lead 1-0 after Feb. 1’s first leg at Camp Nou), he said his team had no preference.
“Either opponent will be very tough. It’ll be a battle,” Correa said.
Barça and Valencia will square off in the second leg on Thursday night at Mestalla Stadium.
For Leganes, Wednesday’s loss put an end to a memorable Copa del Rey campaign highlighted by its quarterfinal victory over Real Madrid on away goals.
The Madrid-based club, which has mostly played in Spain’s lower leagues, had never before reached the Copa del Rey semifinal stage.