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Mbia at the heart of Sevilla success story

"We are so happy to be in the semi-finals," said Sevilla FC's Stéphane Mbia, with UEFA.com's Richard van Poortvliet impressed by the 28-year-old's resilient showing.

Stéphane Mbia (right) joins the celebrations at the final whistle in Saint Petersburg
Stéphane Mbia (right) joins the celebrations at the final whistle in Saint Petersburg ©AFP/Getty Images

Sevilla FC like the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Cup that preceded it. The team from the south of Spain overcame a tough test against FC Zenit to book their place in the semi-final draw as they look to retain their title – something they did in 2007.

Central to those ambitions has been defensive midfielder Stéphane Mbia, who was outstanding for Unai Emery's men in Russia's second city on Thursday as Sevilla withstood Zenit's second-half onslaught. "It is so difficult to play here and they have a really good team," the Cameroon international told UEFA.com afterwards. "We knew what we wanted to do, but we had a bit of luck and we managed to score [a decisive late goal]."

Mbia has the rare ability to adjust his game to the situation required. He has scored three and provided two assists in this season's UEFA Europa League, but his contribution in shielding the holders' defence was more telling as goals from José Rondón and Hulk cancelled out Carlos Bacca's early penalty for the visitors.

"In the first half we controlled the game, but sometimes it is really difficult, because they have some really good players like Hulk and Danny," said the 28-year-old after Sevilla's 4-3 aggregate triumph. "We tried to sit back and defend, which we had worked at on the training ground, but we knew if we had only one shot we would score and we are so happy to be in the semi-finals."

Unai Emery issues instructions
Unai Emery issues instructions©AFP/Getty Images

Sevilla proved to be cruelly efficient. With time running out, they broke the home fans' hearts, substitute Kevin Gameiro sending a fierce shot into the bottom corner to put his side through.

Coach Emery's role in Sevilla's success cannot be underestimated. The 43-year-old joined the Andalusian club in 2013 following a spell with Zenit's domestic rivals FC Spartak Moskva, and Mbia rates him highly. "He knows exactly what he wants to do and what the plan for the game is," noted the former Stade Rennais FC and Olympique de Marseille man. "We just try to follow him and do exactly what he says. He is a really good manager."

As for what happens in Friday's draw, Mbia is not too concerned; he and his team-mates are "just enjoying the moment". However, given Mbia found the net in both legs of last season's semi-final against Valencia CF, before converting a penalty in the final shoot-out against SL Benfica, whoever Sevilla get will do well to keep the No25 under close observation.

Stéphane Mbia challenges Zenit's José Rondón
Stéphane Mbia challenges Zenit's José Rondón©AFP/Getty Images

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