History gave Valencia CF little hope when the draw paired them with domestic rivals FC Barcelona in the last four. This first leg was about whether Héctor Cúper's men could build up a big enough cushion at their home fortress ahead of a perilous trip to Camp Nou – they did not disappoint.
Valencia's debut UEFA Champions League season had been mixed. At Mestalla they were irresistible, unbeaten and at times unplayable; S.S. Lazio had been passed into submission in the last eight. Away they were inconsistent and occasionally lacklustre, mustering just two wins in seven games. Crucially, however, Jekyll had always got the better of Hyde.
Spurred on by frenetic home support, Valencia took an early lead through Miguel Ángel Angulo but had the wind taken out of their sails when, within seconds of Claudio López having an effort chalked off, Mauricio Pellegrino put through his own net. The equaliser had been coming yet Valencia regained the initiative and, two minutes before half-time, the lead.
Kily González was in the thick of it, delivering a perfectly-weighted cross for Angulo to divert home at the near post. Then, in the next attack, came the hammer blow as Angulo was upended by Carles Puyol and Gaizka Mendieta slotted the resulting penalty low to Ruud Hesp's right.
With Dani struggling to fill the suspended Luís Figo's shoes and Javier Farinós shadowing Rivaldo's every move, Barcelona never looked like getting back into it. Indeed, damage limitation was the order of the day as Hesp twice kept out Mendieta while a Farinos back-heel went millimetres wide.
Then, with the visitors chasing the away goal that could have made all the difference, Valencia broke through Amedeo Carboni. The midfielder made light work of Simão as he cut inside and offloaded for López to send a fizzing low shot into the far corner. Cúper's men were within touching distance of the final.