Valencia to meet Marseille in cup finals

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> A first half penalty from prolific striker Mista was enough to take Valencia into the final of the UEFA Cup.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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A first half penalty from prolific striker Mista was enough to take Valencia into the final of the UEFA Cup. They would be meeting Marseille in the final happening later this month after a 1-0 win over Villarreal in their semi-final, second leg on Thursday. Mista scored from the spot in the 16th minute after he had been brought down by Juliano Belletti and the goal was enough to take his side through on aggregate after the goalless first leg a fortnight ago. Down but not out Valencia had the possibility of a first domestic and European double to spur them on when they faced regional rivals Villarreal for a place in the UEFA Cup final on Thursday. Tension was high at the Mestalla after La Liga rivals fought out a goalless draw in the first leg of their all-Spanish semi-final. Valencia, who are close to securing the league title, were presented with a chance to take the lead when Villarreal defender Juliano Belletti bundled Mista to the ground as the pair competed for a high ball. The Valencia striker picked himself up and fired past keeper Pepe Reina and inside the post to score. The Spanish league leaders had an immediate scare after they had taken the lead as midfielder Mohamed Sissoko looped a header dangerously towards his own goal but, to the relief of most of the fans inside the Mestalla, the ball passed over the bar. Rafa Benitez's side came under further pressure as the first half wore on and Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares made a top class save from Sonny Anderson in the 26th minute. Domestic double UEFA Cup debutants Villarreal, who had beaten Galatasaray, AS Roma and Celtic on their way to the last four, failed to build on their first half display. They had to rely on goalkeeper Reina to keep the score at 1-0 as he blocked an effort from Xisco. Mista squandered a fantastic opportunity 13 minutes from time after Vicente had headed the ball down to him inside the penalty area. But ultimately, it mattered little, and Valencia can look forward to their third European final in five years after their UEFA Champions League final defeats in 2000 and 2001. They will meet Marseille, beaten finalists in 1999, in the final in Gothenburg on May 19, after the French side beat former winners Newcastle United 2-0.

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