Copa del Rey: Frustrated Barcelona win semi-final first leg Clasico
An Eder Militão own goal earned Barcelona a surprise 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of a stormy Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday. The Catalans arrive without two consecutive defeats and an injured trio of key players – top scorer Robert Lewandowski, key midfielder Pedri and explosive winger Ousmane Dembele. After their Europa League elimination by Manchester United last week and a first round defeat against La Liga minnows Almeria, Madrid fans smelled blood but left bitterly disappointed.
Militão blocked a rebound into his own goal after 26 minutes to split the teams and give Barcelona the lead ahead of the second leg on 5 April at Camp Nou.
The hosts had more of the ball but failed to find shots on target, while Barcelona defended well.
“It was the game we wanted to play – not with this result, but it gives us confidence for the second leg,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti told reporters.
“We didn’t let Barcelona do what they wanted, it’s good for us, and we just have to repeat it (at Camp Nou).”
Asked whether Barcelona deserved the win, Ancelotti said it was clear his team deserved more.
“No, it’s clear, we had chances, but I think it was one of Madrid’s best games in terms of high pressure,” said Ancelotti.
“It was a bit strange, the way they played, but they’ve learned very well, it’s a very solid team defensively.”
After Andreas Christensen was only deemed fit enough to start on the bench, Barcelona went with Marcos Alonso out of the centre-back position.
Sergio Busquets made his 46th Clásico appearance, overtaking former Real Madrid and Barcelona legends Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi to set a new record.
Despite Barcelona’s seven-point lead over champions Madrid in La Liga, many, including Barca coach Xavi Hernández, had Madrid as favourites.
Los Blancos haven’t won a trophy since 2014 and hit Barca early on, with Benzema having a goal ruled out for offside.
A handful of Madrid fans protested outside the Santiago Bernabéu about Barca’s involvement in the “Negreira case” – the Catalan club pays a former refereeing chief for advice until 2018.
The temperature rose significantly when Vinicius Jr. was booked midway through the first half for wrestling Frankie de Jong to the ground.
Vinicius retorted vociferously with the referee, and Madrid could still be reeling from the argument moments later when Barcelona took the lead.
The goal came against the run of play, scored by Ferran Torres, who slipped through to Frank Casey.
Thibaut Courtois saved the Ivorian midfielder’s low shot but the ball bounced off Militão and into his own net, Nacho trying and failing to hack it clear.
Madrid players and supporters reacted angrily as Barcelona midfielder Gavi ran off in a retort to Militão, but the hosts struggled to create chances.
Barcelona comfortably held their lead until the break, while supporters whistled as the officials walked towards the tunnel.
Perhaps the frustration of some of the home supporters targeting the referee was misplaced, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side unable to find a shot on target against a weak Barcelona team.
Madrid struggled to connect with Benzema, isolated and unable to influence the game.
Record Copa winners Barcelona should have doubled their lead with 20 minutes remaining when Torres cut back through Casey’s cross but his goal-bound shot was blocked by his own team-mate Ansu Fati.
Rodrigo fired a shot wide for Madrid in the closing stages as they were unable to test Ter Stegen despite Barcelona’s shortcomings.
The more traditional roles were reversed as Madrid had more of the ball but Barcelona defended solidly and held home advantage.
“Today they dominated us with the ball, but there are other aspects in the game, sometimes the opponent forces you,” Xavi admitted.
“Madrid can dominate you, it’s difficult to get the ball away from (Toni) Kroos and (Luka) Modric, but defense is part of the game.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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