Cliche time: this is why they play the matches.
Valencia entered the second leg of its UEFA Europa League quarterfinal tie against Basel down 3-0 and needing extreme home magic to find renewed hope for a semifinal berth.
Well, they found that wizardry and then some. Valencia scored thrice in regulation and then watched as Basel took not one but two red cards in the first period of extra time en route to a 5-0 win, 5-3 on aggregate.
Francisco “Paco” Alcacer scored twice in regulation before finding a winner in the 114th minute to dust off the championship hopes of Los Che. Juan Bernat and Eduardo Vargas also scored for Valencia as they advanced. Alcacer now has seven goals in European competition and 14 overall this season.
They are joined by Juventus, Benfica and Sevilla in a Western Europe-heavy final four.
Juventus received a scare from visiting Lyon, but emerge with plans intact to play the Europa League final on its home pitch. Andrea Pirlo scored in the fourth minute to give the Old Lady a 2-0 lead before Lyon halved the deficit in the 18th minute. Yet it was a 68th minute own goal that gave Juve clear sailing into the semis.
Sevilla faced a 1-0 deficit to Porto entering Thursday’s home leg, but that was erased rather quickly as Los Rojiblancos struck four times on the night. Ivan Rakitic converted a 5th minute penalty to kick off a 4-1 (4-2 aggregate) win that was completed by red-hot Kevin Gameiro’s 79th minute tally. Ricardo Quaresma’s goal in the second minute of stoppage time was the only blemish on Sevilla’s day.
Benfica dismissed American forward Aron Johannsson and AZ Alkmaar with relative ease, as Johannsson’s best play actually came on a hard-charging tackle to save a scoring chance. Leading 1-0 going into the home leg, 23-year-old Rodrigo recorded a brace to send the Portuguese side through.
The draw for the semifinals will be held Friday, with the legs being played on April 24 and May 1.