Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Abidal pounces late as Barcelona edge 'El Clasico' over Real Madrid


(CNN) -- A late goal from Eric Abidal gave Barcelona a 2-1 comeback victory in the first leg of their Spanish Cup quarterfinal clash with arch rivals Real Madrid.
The French defender scored the decisive goal in the match known as 'El Clasico' at Real's Bernabeu stadium after Barcelona captain Carles Puyol had canceled out Cristiano Ronaldo's opener.
It means Barcelona are favorites to progress into the final four of the competition and eliminate the holders when the two contest the second leg next Wednesday.
After a cagey opening, in which Barcelona dominated possession, Real took the lead with their first meaningful attack on 11 minutes.
Karim Benzema's pass found Ronaldo scampering through the middle, and the Portuguese forward stepped past Gerard Pique before firing beyond Pinto.
Ronaldo, who has been criticized by some fans for not celebrating some of his recent goals and for missing several chances in the last match with Barca, certainly looked like he enjoyed his opener.
Five minutes later Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez, from Chile, got on the end of Cesc Fabregas' pass but though his looping header beat Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas, it bounced back off the post.
Lionel Messi had his first sight of goal on 26 minutes as his low shot forced Casillas into a smart save at his near post. Andres Iniesta then made some room inside the penalty area but he fired wide after Sanchez's lay off.
But just three minutes into the second half Barcelona pulled level as their captain Carles Puyol stooped to head a corner into the net.
Moments later Real defender Sergio Ramos deflected a volley from Iniesta onto the woodwork after a chipped pass from Fabregas.
Real then hit the woodwork themselves as Benzema's header cannoned back off the upright with Pinto beaten.
Tempers frayed when Real's Pepe appeared to stamp on Messi's hand as the Argentine was on the floor after a foul before Barca edged in front with just over ten minutes to go.
Abidal, who signed a new contract at the club this week, controlled Messi's pass on his chest before shooting low into the net.
In Italy, AC Milan progressed to the quarterfinals of the Italian Cup but they needed extra time to beat Novara 2-1.
Stephan El Shaarawy gave the Rossoneri the lead on 24 minutes with a curling shot but Ivan Radovanovic equalized with a long range free kick two minutes from time.
It was left to Milan's Brazilian striker Pato to seal victory, ten minutes into the extra half an hour.

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