Two goals in three first-half minutes from Stéphane Mbia and Carlos Bacca earned Sevilla FC a 2-0 victory at home to Valencia CF in the first leg of their all-Liga UEFA Europa League semi-final.
Unsettled early on by a fiery start from visitors Valencia, an Ivan Rakitić-inspired Sevilla suddenly awoke around the half-hour mark, grabbing quick-fire goals through Mbia and Bacca. Despite a valiant post-interval revival from the visitors, the two-time UEFA Cup winners clung on to secure a valuable lead to take to Mestalla next week.
Making light of the wall of noise that greeted them among the fans in the Bombonera de Nervión, Valencia started the stronger, showing greater composure, hunger for the ball and a counterattacking threat most clearly evidenced by a stinging shot from Paco Alcácer on 17 minutes. Yet Sevilla suddenly sprung to life with chances for Federico Fazio and Bacca in no time at all – both created by captain Rakitić.
With a sense of inevitability, it was that man Rakitić who created the opener on 33 minutes, Daniel Carriço flicking on the Croatia midfielder's free-kick for Mbia to improvise a back-heel into the roof of the net. The momentum was all with Los Sevillistas now, and three minutes later Bacca doubled their lead after clever interplay with Vitolo. Roars of '¡Sevilla campeón! ¡Vamos mi Sevilla!' rang out.
With Valencia unable to cope with Fazio's aerial threat, the Argentinian defender again tested Vicente Guaita with headers either side of the interval. Urged on by 2,400 visiting supporters, however, Juan Antonio Pizzi's team responded with admirable verve, though their adventure left spaces for Los Rojiblancos to exploit – Bacca was denied in a one-on-one by Guaita after another Rakitić pass.
That pattern continued throughout a lively second period, Valencia's persistence leading to chances for Alcácer, the waspish Eduardo Vargas and substitute Jonas. Right at the end, Vargas's header crashed off the bar with Beto beaten. So 2-0 it ended, leaving Sevilla clearly in the driving seat, though all is not lost for Valencia, with memories still fresh of their quarter-final comeback against FC Basel 1893, when they overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit.