Stoppage-time goal puts Real Betis into Copa del Rey final

Real Betis needed a stoppage-time equalizer to hold Rayo Vallecano to a 1-1 draw on Thursday and reach the Copa del Rey final for the first time in 17 years.

Real Betis' Joaquin celebrates after the match.   -  Reuters

Real Betis needed a stoppage-time equalizer to hold Rayo Vallecano to a 1-1 draw on Thursday and reach the Copa del Rey final for the first time in 17 years.

The match appeared to be headed to extra time after Bebe scored for the visitors with a long-range free kick in the 80th minute. But Borja Iglesias sent Betis into the final with his goal from close range after a breakaway two minutes into injury time at the Benito Villamarín Stadium in Seville.

“I don’t know why, but I knew I was going to score,” Iglesias said. “This morning I felt that I was going to score the decisive goal. I woke up with this special feeling about it.”

The goal allowed Betis to advance 3-2 on aggregate after a 2-1 come-from-behind win in the first leg in Madrid.

Manuel Pellegrini's team will face Valencia, which defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 at home on Wednesday to advance 2-1 on aggregate. The final will be played April 23 in Sevilla.

“It was a long time without making it to a final,” Pellegrini said. “We are very pleased with the opportunity. The players stayed committed even after conceding that free kick goal and the team's maturity paid off.”

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Valencia is back in the final for the first time since winning its eighth Copa title in 2019.

Betis’ other Copa trophies were lifted in 1977 and 2005. It was eliminated by Valencia in the 2019 semifinals.

Betis has been revamped since the arrival of Pellegrini, the veteran Chilean coach. It sits third in the Spanish league and is enjoying one of its best seasons in several years.

Rayo was playing in the Copa semifinals for the first time since 1982 and was trying to reach the final for the first time. The modest Madrid club had a good start to its season but had lost five straight games in all competitions going into Thursday’s match.

Rayo was without veteran Colombia forward Radamel Falcao because of a muscle injury.

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