William Carvalho’s goal gives Betis edge over Rayo in Copa semifinal


Surrounded by defenders inside the box, William Carvalho devised a solution that would make most top strikers proud.

Without panicking, the Real Betis midfielder made a fine move to get past the defender in front of him, sending the ball between his legs before calmly shooting into the back of the net.

The goal gave Betis a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday, putting the Sevilla club in position to return to the final for the first time since 2005.

The second leg will be played in Seville on March 3. In the first leg of the other semi-final on Thursday, Athletic Bilbao host Valencia looking to reach their third consecutive final.

Rayo opened the scoring after five minutes of the match at their Vallecas Stadium with a header from Álvaro García from close range. Betis equalized in minute 26 with a low shot from outside the area by striker Borja Iglesia.

Carvalho’s game-winning goal came in the 68th after a clever move past Rayo defender Alejandro Catena to set up the Portuguese midfielder’s second goal of the season.

Betis won its second Cup title in 2005 but have not lifted any major trophies since then. The team has been revamped since the arrival of veteran Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini in 2020. They are third in the Spanish league and advanced to the knockout rounds of the Europa League.

Rayo is playing in the Cup semifinals for the first time since 1982 and is looking to reach the final for the first time in its history.

The modest club from Madrid reached the semi-finals with one of the best home records in Spanish football, with nine wins and just one loss in 12 games at the Vallecas Stadium. They had only lost once in their last 10 home games against Betis in all competitions. Rayo eliminated Betis in the round of 32 of the 2020 Cup.

Veteran Colombian striker Radamel Falcao came off the bench for Rayo in the 62nd minute, but was unable to lead the team to a better result.

Betis had won four in a row _ outscoring opponents 14-2 _ before losing 2-0 to Villarreal at home in the league on Sunday, when some regular starters rested.

The team was sanctioned with the closure of a sector of its Benito Villamarín Stadium after a piece of plastic thrown by a fan hit a Sevilla player in the head during last month’s Cup match. The game was suspended and resumed a day later behind closed doors.


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