Valencia 1-0 Athletic Bilbao (2-1 agg): Guedes stunner secures Copa del Rey final spot

By Sports Desk March 02, 2022

Valencia reached the Copa del Rey final for the third time this century as Goncalo Guedes' strike secured a 2-1 aggregate semi-final win over Athletic Bilbao.

The Portugal international's powerful effort two minutes before half-time sealed a 1-0 second-leg win at Mestalla to send Los Che through.

Winners in 2008 and 2019, Valencia will now contest the final against either Real Betis or Rayo Vallecano, who meet in the second leg of their semi-final on Thursday.

Athletic had eliminated Barcelona and Real Madrid from this season's competition but could not lift themselves after Guedes' goal and were unable to reach the final for the third year running.

After 40 tense minutes of few chances, Inaki Williams was played through on goal by Iker Muniain but dithered on the ball and was denied by goalkeeper Julen Agirrezabala.

Just two minutes later, a free-kick was cleared to Guedes 25 yards from goal, he took a touch into space and blasted a superb strike well beyond the reach of Giorgi Mamardashvili.

Athletic pushed for a way back in the second half, but their final product was lacking. Williams miscontrolled at just the wrong moment, and Muniain cut inside and curled a shot a yard over.

A fierce free-kick from Inigo Martinez was well held by Mamardashvili, who had mostly been protected superbly by a disciplined back three.

Athletic had a few late set-pieces to send towards the Valencia box, but there was little to unnerve the jubilant home fans.

 

What does it mean? Valencia seize chance to rescue season

Valencia are ninth in LaLiga, 11 points outside the European places, so the Copa has represented one of the few bright spots in their season.

The chance to win the trophy for the ninth time and qualify for next season's Europa League is therefore a hugely welcome one for Jose Bordalas.

For Athletic, who had performed so well to eliminate Barca and Madrid in the previous rounds, this will feel like a missed opportunity.

Guedes' golden touch

In a contest of few clear-cut chances, it fell to Guedes to settle things with a spectacular effort from outside the box.

It was one of just four shots on target throughout, but it was worthy of winning any match.

More Copa misery for Muniain

Athletic's captain and inspiration, Muniain was exceptional in the earlier rounds to drag his side towards a possible third final in a row.

However, he could not influence proceedings at Mestalla, creating only one goalscoring chance throughout and failing to test Mamardashvili.

What's next?

Valencia host Granada in LaLiga on Saturday, while Athletic are at home to Levante next Monday.

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