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Valencia overcomes Sevilla late, Espanyol draws Barca 0-0

DEFENDING champion Valencia overcame Sevilla 3-2 while Espanyol held Barcelona scoreless for the first time since August in a 0-0 draw in Copa del Rey first-leg quarterfinals yesterday.

Ruben Baraja made it 2-2 with seven minutes left in regulation, then Juanma Mata intercepted a pass deep in Sevilla territory for Valencia's winner.

Mauricio Pochettino began his Espanyol coaching career positively as the former Espanyol defender saw his charges prevent Barcelona from scoring for the first time since an opening day league defeat.

Runaway Spanish leader Barcelona, which has averaged over three goals per game this season, had won 13 straight road games in all competitions coming into the crosstown derby.

At Mestalla Stadium, David Villa put Valencia ahead in the sixth minute in a matchup featuring the last two holders of the domestic cup.

Luis Fabiano scored in the 53rd to pull Sevilla even, then Adriano put the team ahead in the 68th with a disputed goal.

The Brazilian striker was at least a meter (yard) offside when Renato's tap-back fell to him to slot over Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

Baraja collected the ball at the top of the area and moved through two defenders before beating Sevilla goalie Andres Palop with a hard shot to begin Valencia's comeback, which was capped by Mata three minutes later. Mata collected Ndri Romaric's errant pass on the right of the area and sent a deflected shot out of the reach of Palop.

Major gaffes have left referees under the spotlight in Spain this week, and Adriano's goal would have been another talking point if Valencia had not won.

Adriano's goal at least made amends after he sent an ill-advised pass back toward Palop that Spain striker Villa pounced on to round Palop and slide a right-footed shot into goal.

Just after Fabiano tested Guaita in the 19th, Villa was replaced by Fernando Morientes after tweaking his left leg. Valencia said there was no strain and its leading striker was removed only as a precaution.

Diego Capel's entry in the second half gave Sevilla a lift and Fabiano beat Guaita to the Sevilla winger's cross to head home the equalizer before Adriano put the visitors ahead.

The original referee for the Espanyol-Barcelona match was replaced after making two major mistakes during Real Madrid's 3-1 league win over Osasuna on Sunday.

Only Espanyol season ticket-holders were allowed entry into Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium after crowd troubles marred the city rivals' last meeting.

Espanyol, which was 18th in the league and battling relegation, pressured better throughout with Barcelona goalie Jose Manuel Pinto blocking Valmiro "Valdo" Lopes' shot only 20 seconds in.

Pinto stretched to reach Jose Callejon's header in the 21st, while Valdo fired over from inside the area in the 38th as Barcelona failed to scare without regulars Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry or Lionel Messi in the starting lineup -- although Argentina winger Messi was introduced with 15 minutes to play.

Barcelona started the second half better with Bojan Krkic testing Carlos Kameni in the 50th with a weakly taken strike.

But even with the introduction of Xavi Hernandez in the 68th, Barcelona failed to respond and Pinto saved Nene's angled drive in the 74th as Espanyol continued to impress in the domestic cup competition, which has accounted for its only two wins in the last 14 games.

Barcelona lost Mexico defender Rafael Marquez in the 10th with a left leg injury.

In today's first legs, 23-time champion Athletic Bilbao welcomes Sporting Gijon and Real Betis plays at Mallorca.


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