Pellegrino salutes Alaves players for final 'gift'

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The Argentine coach championed his players after they secured a blockbuster tie against Barcelona by beating Celta in a tense second leg

Alaves coach Mauricio Pellegrino thanked his players for the "gift" of securing the club's first Copa del Rey final appearance in their history after beating Celta Vigo 1-0 on Wednesday.

A 0-0 draw in Vigo last week left the tie delicately poised ahead of the second leg in Vitoria and Alaves ultimately ran out slender winners.

Alaves march into Copa del Rey final

Second-half substitute Edgar Mendez broke the Celta resolve eight minutes from time and Alaves held on for an historic triumph in what was the club's biggest match since the 2000-01 UEFA Cup final defeat to Liverpool.

"I have a great satisfaction with what these guys have given me," Pellegrino told reporters.

"This final is a gift from the team, and particularly given this is our first year in La Liga after so many seasons down [in the lower tiers].

"I am also very grateful to the team behind the team that comes out. This final will have the whole team focused for the rest of the league season in order for everyone to be in shape when that match arrives."

The final hurdle standing between Alaves and their first major trophy will be Barcelona, allowing Pellegrino to once again go head-to-head with a coach who he admires in Luis Enrique.

"He helped me a lot when I arrived in Spain and I keep great memories of that on a personal level," he said. "On the pitch there will be rivalry, but on a personal level I really appreciate him.

"It's going to be a very difficult game and tomorrow we will start thinking about it.

"It will be against one of the best teams in the world and we'll try to make sure everyone is better [in terms of fitness] for that game."

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