Yunus Musah was the only American to see action in the third round of Spain’s midweek Copa del Rey matches, once again earning the start but taking a knock in their a win over their lower-division foes.
FC Cartagena 1 – 2 Valencia CF
FC Valencia looked to be headed to another nail-biting overtime cup fight against a highly-motivated lower league opponent, however they were saved at the last second thanks to a winner by Denis Cheryshev to ease past Cartagena on Wednesday.
As has been the case in all of Valencia’s previous games in this competition, American international Yunus Musah started in the team’s midfield and put in a standout performance, however had to be pulled out in favor of the Russian game-winner in the 71st minute, suffering from what appeared to be cramps after a generally rough treatment by the opposition.
The starting lineup put out by Valencia head coach Jose Bordalas included a number of usual starters from their La Liga campaign, with Musah in the midfield alongside Carlos Soler and Uros Racic.
18 minutes into the contest, Musah broke free from the defense and sent Soler in through the defense on goal, however his teammate’s shot was off-target, and likely would have been called back for offside.
Following a foul on Helder Costa just past the half-hour, Soler and Hugo Duro lined up over a free kick from approximately 19 yards out. The latter took a step towards the ball as decoy, but backed off to allow Soler to take the shot, which he nailed just inside the right upright, completely evading the wall and leaving Cartagena keeper Jerome Prior no chance whatsoever to make the save.
Just before halftime, the hosts felt as though they were robbed of a penalty, after Mouctar Diakhaby kicked Richard Boateng on the edge of the area while trying to defend a cleared free kick. The referee did show Diakhaby yellow for his cynical attempt, but controversially judged that the infraction occurred outside of the area, a decision that the home team furiously protested well after the halftime whistle.
Cartagena defender David Andujar nearly gifted their guests the 2-0 just after the restart, weakly hitting a pass under pressure towards Pablo Vázquez in the middle of his own area. Musah arrived first, slightly deflecting the ball into Costa’s path. Impressively, his blast from near the penalty spot was blocked by Prior, and the immediate follow-up by Marcos André was dealt with as well, preserving their chance for a possible come-back.
Musah was frequently targeted for physical play by the Cartagena defense, leading to a pair of yellow cards awarded to the opposition. After one such instance in the 70th minute, where Alex Gallar saw yellow for trying to forcibly pull an ailing Musah from the turf, the American left the field under some duress, with what looked to be accumulation of fatigue and rough play.
Almost immediately, Cartagena were handed a lifeline when Jesus Vazquez inadvertently deflected a ball in the area with his elbow, allowing Alfredo Ortuno to nail a perfect shot to the upper right corner for the equalizer.
The hosts were energized, and pushed hard for the winning goal to pull off what would be a historical upset. However, it would be Musah’s replacement Cheryshev who would save the day for the favorites.
Daniel Wass lined up to take a free kick from around 25 yards out deep into added time. While his initial attempt was dealt with by Prior at the left post, the ball landed directly in front of the Russian international for an easy finish from six yards out.
Having survived the close call, Musah and Valencia will find out their opponent for the Round of 16, set to take place around January 15, in Friday afternoon’s draw. In the meantime, they have a tough visit to runaway league leaders Real Madrid on Saturday night.
Sergiño Dest is being isolated following a positive Covid test result, and was not present as Barcelona narrowly avoided a debacle in their 2-1 come-from-behind win on the road over third-tier Linares Deportivo on Wednesday evening.
Matthew Hoppe is still injured and did not suit up on Wednesday afternoon for Mallorca’s 2-1 road victory over SD Eibar.