SEVILLE, Spain — Stephane Mbia and Carlos Bacca scored within four minutes of each other as Sevilla beat Valencia 2-0 in the first leg of an all-Spanish Europa League semifinal on Thursday.
With his back to goal, Mbia backheeled Ivan Rakitic’s bouncing free kick over goalkeeper Victor Guaita for the opener after 33 minutes. Mbia appeared to score after receiving in an offside position.
Guaita could do little moments later as Bacca raced free into the area to fire a low shot past the outstretched Valencia goalie to put the Andalucian club in command and on the verge of its first final since winning the second of consecutive UEFA Cups in 2007.
Sevilla `keeper Beto denied late Valencia substitute Jonas from point-blank in the 87th to preserve the advantage, then Eduardo Vargas headed off the crossbar as Valencia nearly scored a valuable away goal.
“We played a good game against a great rival,” Bacca said. “Despite the result, it won’t be easy in the return.”
Valencia must rebound in one week at its Mestalla Stadium with a place in the May 14 final at Juventus Stadium in Turin at stake. Benfica won 2-1 at home to Juventus in the other semifinal.
Valencia was fortunate to only be two goals down after the first leg after it failed to produce any concrete opportunities while relying on Guaita for important stops. Valencia doesn’t have to look far back for inspiration after overturning a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Basel to reach the last four.
“I’m happy with the team and the effort they made,” said Valencia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, whose club is looking to return to its first final since winning in 2004. “I don’t think the result reflects the effort we made tonight.”
The visitors started brightly with Joao Perreira testing Beto with a swerving shot from outside the area, but the hosts took control after that through Rakitic.
The Croatia midfielder’s free kick was headed on to the far post where Mbia, who appeared to be offside, got turned around trying to reach it as it bounced through his legs before recovering for the athletic score.
Valencia looked demoralized right after Victor Perez combined with Bacca to play the Colombian through to create a two-goal cushion.
“One of the most important things is that we didn’t concede,” Bacca said. “We could have had a third, but them too.”
Bacca was dangerous throughout, forcing Guaita to save his header and a solo effort set up by Rakitic in the 56th, either side of Guaita’s save on Federico Fazio’s header. Sevilla midfielder Vicente Iborra headed over goal in stoppage time after Valencia’s final flurry of chances.
“We’re strong at home and we can come back from this,” said Valencia forward Pablo Alcacer, who will miss the return after being booked for trying to avoid contact with Beto, who stuck his leg out at the Valencia midfielder in the closing moments. “We’re going to try and get the yellow rescinded. It’s clear I didn’t do anything.”