Barca favorites to qualify for the finals of Copa Del Rey as the first leg ended 1-1 at the Bernabeu. The Catalans take home a vital away goal for the second leg.
The clash of the two Spanish Giants was yet another classic. Madrid did not have 5 first team players in the lineup due to injury and suspensions. The most notable absence was that of captain Iker Cassilas, so Diego Lopez started in the goal for Los Blancos.
Despite all their absentees, the home side started the game brightly and were more threatening than their opponents in the first 45 minutes. Ronaldo and Ozil did create openings in the first half but failed to take advantage of any.
On the other hand, visitor’s attacking threat was largely diminished by the impressive youngster Raphael Varane. He was without a doubt man of the match on the day with a commanding performance in the defense and adding to that scored the equalizer late in the second half to rescue Real Madrid.
Both teams created several chances in the first half but frenetic first 45 minutes ended as 0-0. Madrid started the second half very similar to the way they started first. However, despite having an upper hand, Madrid went behind thanks to Cesc Fabregas, who scored in the 50th minute from a Lionel Messi pass. One just cannot mark the little Argentine out of the game these days.
The former Arsenal captain could have doubled Barcelona’s lead but once again it was Varane who kept Fabregas out with a brilliantly timed challenge. Later Cristiano Ronaldo squandered a wonderful chance to equalize as Essien provided a teasing ball from the right but the Portuguese failed to test Barca’s goalie from close range.
As the match entered the final 15 minutes, the visitors were seemingly keen on holding onto the lead and Madrid were piling constant pressure. Eventually in the 81st minute, the home side did draw level as Varane scored with a thumping header from Mesut Ozil’s free kick. The second leg will be played on 26th February where Barca will be favorites to quality in the Camp Nou.
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