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Barcelona, Sevilla advance

BARCELONA and Sevilla claimed the final two places in the Spanish Copa del Rey semifinals on Thursday, Barcelona knocking out city rival Espanyol 3-2 and Sevilla coming through on away goals against holder Valencia.

Sevilla, the 2007 winner, will play Athletic Bilbao for a place in May's final in Valencia, while the Catalans take on Real Mallorca.

Espanyol had held Barca to a goalless draw in the first leg, but a mistake by Cristian Alvarez gifted the league leader its opening goal at the Nou Camp on 35 minutes.

The Espanyol goalkeeper dived to block an innocuous-looking shot from Silvinho but could only divert it into the path of Bojan Krkic, who sidefooted into the empty net.

Bojan scored a well-taken second just after the break and defender Gerard Pique made it 3-0 when he nodded home a Daniel Alves cross.

A deflected shot from Ferran Corominas and a spectacular long-range drive from Jose Callejon gave Espanyol hope but it was unable to find the goal that would have taken it through.

The visitors ended the match with 10 men after the referee showed defender Daniel Jarque a second yellow card in added time.

Sebastien Squillaci scored a dramatic last-minute winner as Sevilla came from behind to earn a 2-1 home win over Valencia and edge through on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate scoreline.

Valencia looked to be cruising when a header from captain Carlos Marchena put it in front but Frederic Kanoute equalized with a header before the break.

Sevilla missed several chances before Frenchman Squillaci hooked Renato's corner in from close range in the 90th minute.

Valencia goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez, making his first start since a transfer from Tottenham Hotspur, rushed out in the 76th to block Luis Fabiano's quick shot and saved another attempt from close in but couldn't reach Squillaci's floater.

Coach Manolo Jimenez predicted it would be difficult to get past Bilbao in the semifinals and noted the Basque side had won the Copa 23 times, one fewer than record winner Barcelona, whose treble trophy bid remained on track.

"Bilbao are just as hard to beat as Valencia, because they are a side with history, they have won a lot of cups and have been on a long unbeaten run," he told a news conference.

On Wednesday, Mallorca drew with Real Betis 0-0 to win 1-0 on aggregate.

The semifinals take place over two legs, with the first leg next week and the second in the first week of March.


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