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Stoppage-time strike earns Valencia draw

Reuters

Valencia’s Denis Cheryshev celebrates his goal in first-leg Spanish King’s Cup semifinal action against Real Betis on Thursday.

The Associated PressMADRID (AP) — Valencia is getting used to some late heroics in the Spanish King’s Cup.

After scoring twice in stoppage time to advance from the quarterfinals last week, Valencia salvaged a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the semifinals against Real Betis thanks to an injury-time equalizer.

Betis took a 2-0 lead on Thursday with a goal scored directly from a corner kick early in the second half, but Kevin Gameiro’s late strike gave Valencia the slight edge going into the return match at home later this month.

In the quarterfinals, Valencia had defeated Getafe 3-1 at its Mestalla Stadium with two goals by Rodrigo in added time to overcome a 1-0 first-leg loss.

“It wouldn’t be smart to think that we’ve already done enough to make it to the final,” Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia said. “We have to stay humble and respect our very good opponent.”

Betis is hoping to be back for the May 25 final at its Villamarin Stadium in Seville, which saw a record crowd of 57,123 on Thursday. The other semifinal is being played by four-time defending champion Barcelona and Real Madrid, which drew 1-1 in a first-leg matchup on Wednesday at Camp Nou.

Betis opened the scoring with a goal by Loren Moron just before halftime, and veteran Joaquin Sanchez added to the lead with the rare corner kick goal less than 10 minutes into the second half.

The 37-year-old midfielder curled in a mid-height shot from the left corner and Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech couldn’t get back in time to make the save before the ball crossed the goal line. The officiating crew initially let play continue, but a video review quickly confirmed the goal.

Russia forward Denis Cheryshev pulled one back for Valencia with a 70th-minute header after Gameiro’s cross, and the French forward evened the match from close range after a well-placed low pass by Rodrigo 2 minutes into stoppage time.

“We can’t be happy after conceding the equalizer like that. We should have closed the match,” Moron said. “It was tough, but we still have the return match to play and we still have a chance to advance.”

Valencia is back in the semifinals for the first time since 2012. It hasn’t made it to the final since it won the last of its seven titles in 2008.

Betis hadn’t reached the last four since it won the second of its two Spanish King’s Cup titles in 2005.

Lazio holds firm with win

ROME (AP) — Lazio remained firmly in the race for a Champions League place after a 1-0 win over relegation-threatened Empoli in Serie A on Thursday.

Felipe Caicedo scored the only goal of the match, converting a penalty 3 minutes before halftime after he had been tripped by Empoli goalkeeper Ivan Provedel.

Simone Inzaghi’s side moved into fourth place, two points ahead of AC Milan and three above Atalanta and Roma, which all have a game in hand.

The top four in Serie A qualify for a spot in next year’s Champions League.

Inter Milan, in third, is also only two points ahead of Lazio.

Empoli remained 17th, a point above the relegation zone ahead of the rest of the round of 23 fixtures.Speech

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