Heavy rain made it almost impossible to play at Balaidos, but it didn’t stop Celta players from putting in a competitive performance against the experienced, but tonight lethargic Sevilla in the return leg of Copa del Rey semi-finals at Balaidos.
O Celticos have been inspired from the start and didn’t allow the heavy 4-0 defeat from the first leg to ruin their ambitions of fighting to the end against Sevilla.
Thursday’s game at Balaidos started a bit shy, though, as both teams were concentrated on keeping their nets still, and we had to wait for 35 minutes to see the first excitement of the game.
Fabian Orellana displayed great vision to send a pass to Iago Aspas, who showed brilliant composure inside the box to send it home from close range and give fans reason to cheer as their team managed to get 1-0 at just the right time.
Berizzo’s troops received excellent support throughout the proceedings as Celta fans did indeed recognize the desire in their players’ eyes. Celta were fighting tooth and nail against Sevilla and against poor weather conditions and should be commended for their relentless fighting spirit.
With not much too choose from in the first 45 minutes, it was obvious that Iago Aspas was one of the most prominent players in the home team tonight.
He had another great opportunity in 51 minute as he climbed deep in the penalty area and struck a powerful header towards the net, only for his effort to go wide of the post.
He was more precise only four minutes later when he picked up a rebound only a couple of yards away from goal and put it in without much trouble to double the lead 2-0 and send the fans to utter delight.
The 28-year-old Spanish attacker led his lines against his former club and could get on target in several occasions, but was a bit unlucky to go past his two-goal tally.
Celta’s fantastic efforts were sadly denied only three minutes after Aspas’ second goal of the game, as Enver Banega poured a bucket of cold water in Celta’s face with his goal for 2-1. The 27-year-old Argentina midfielder showed great finish from just outside of the box with a bullet of a shot that flew past the goalkeeper and into the bottom left corner.
Enver Banega was the only bright spark in Unai Emery’s lethargic team this evening, and the Argentine was the main driving force which ultimately helped Sevilla ease the pressure from the unyielding hosts.
A pivotal moment of the game happened at the hour-mark.
Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico produced a slide tackle which was characterised as a foul from the referee Juan Martinez Munuera, who awarded Celta with a penalty kick.
John Guidetti was unlucky from the spot as his effort sent Rico to one side and ball into the right post of Rico’s goal. It was another bucket of cold water for already damped Celta players.
Enver Banega tried to kill all hopes for the hosts nine minutes later with another chance in the game as he found himself in great position on the edge of the box. Unmarked he picked up a pass and latched on a powerful striker, which went far over the bar.
It didn’t stop Celta from trying and fans were delighted to see their team making so much effort in heavy conditions to fight against Sevilla despite the huge lead and an away goal from Emery’s men, which put the entire game in a different perspective.
The hosts kept pressing, mostly through the left-hand side of the pitch and excellent Theo Bongonda, who had a fantastic game tonight.
The young Belgium starlet made endless runs down the left and sent numerous crosses towards the penalty box, while his clever moves also delighted the home crowd at Balaidos.
It was exactly Bongonda who sent a fantastic cross to Pablo Hernandez on 83 minutes, but his inaccurate shot went wide of the left post.
Sergio Rico was a busy man in the closing stages of the game and he did excellently to stop Fabian Orellana, whose close-range effort was already seen in before Sevilla shot-stopper made a great save.
Poetic justice was ruined in the 87th minute of the game when Evgen Konoplyanka used a moment of weakness from the home side to punish them for their wasted opportunities and level the score 2-2.
Vitolo sent a pass to Konoplyanka, who was left alone for an easy tap in into an empty net.
Sevilla ended the game with ten men on the pitch as Steven N’Zonzi was sent off for a tough tackle in the 90th minute, but it had little effect in the dying moments of the game.
Ultimately, it is fair conclusion to say that Sevilla used their vast experience to reach the Copa del Rey final and their 13th overall final in last twelve years.
Rojiblancos have become a side to be reckoned with and Unai Emery has done a magnificent job in lifting his team after a tough start to the campaign. On the other hand, Celta have produced a fine display and will have every reason to be pleased despite the elimination.
There is no doubt that this inspiring performance will be a huge boost for Berizzo’s team in the next stage of the season.
CELTA: Blanco 6 – Wass 7 (Jonny 6), Mallo 6.5, Gomez Sola 6.5, Planas 6.5 – Diaz 6.5 (Radoja 6.5), Hernandez 7 – Aspas 7.5, Orellana 7.5, Bongonda 7.5 – Guidetti 6.5 (Sene 6).
Unused subs: Alvarez, Beauvue, Cabral, Drazic.
SEVILLA: Rico 6 – Coke 6, Rami 6.5, Kolodziejczak 6, Escudero Palomo 6.5 – Carrico 6.5 (Cristoforo 6.5), Iborra 7 (N’Zonzi 6) – Vitolo 7, Banega 7.5 (Konoplyanka 7), Krohn-Dehli 7 – Gameiro 6.
Unused subs: Mariano, Munoz, Rezes, Soria.
REFEREE: Juan Martinez Munuera