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17 Years Later, 40-Year-Old Joaquín Is Back In A Copa Del Rey Final With Real Betis

Real Betis' magical season had its finest moment yet Thursday as the club saw off Rayo Vallecano 1-1 at the Benito Villamarín to win its Copa del Rey semifinal 3-2 on aggregate, setting up a final against Valencia on April 23.

Rayo, which has never advanced to a Copa final in its history, struggled to create any chances of note at the Benito Villamarín as we approached the final 10 minutes of the match. It looked like the decisive goal would ultimately be the 68th-minute winner William Carvalho scored in the first leg back on Feb. 9 in Madrid.

Should we watch it again? Let's watch it again. Good grief. 

However, in the 80th minute, former Manchester United flop Bebé launched a 30-yard screamer off a free kick to put us on course for extra time.

But this Betis team has become the neutral's favorite in Spain by providing constant excitement – only Real Madrid has scored more in LaLiga – and Manuel Pellegrini's side found a dramatic equalizer/winner in the 92nd-minute from Borja Iglesias. 

Betis supporters are in dreamland with the club still third in LaLiga, above both Barcelona and Atlético, and now with a Copa final to contest at Estadio La Cartuja in Seville. La Cartuja is just five miles away from Betis' home ground. 

The stadium was electric Thursday, and you could see just how much it meant to fans in the buildup.   

If everything goes according to plan (beating Valencia in the final and also finishing top four to qualify for the Champions League), this will be Betis' finest season in 17 years. Back in 2004-05, Brazilian striker Ricardo Oliveira fired the club to a fourth-place finish and the final of the Copa, where los Verdiblancos defeated Osasuna for a second-ever Copa triumph.   

Another hero of that campaign was Joaquín, who played all 38 LaLiga games and all nine Copa matches. 

While his career has since taken him to Valencia (where he won the 2008 Copa), Málaga and Fiorentina, Joaquín has been back at Betis since 2015 and is playing his final professional season at the age of 40.

Joaquín's influence isn't nearly as great at this point — although he scored and created goals in the first and second rounds this season – but he came off the bench in the 82nd minute and played the incisive ball through to help create the winning goal.  

A Copa final is an entirely fitting send off for his legendary career.

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