Wednesday, 25 January 2012

La Liga - Barca knock holders Real out


A 2-2 draw between Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou was enough for Pep Guardiola's side to progress to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, as they edged out the holders 4-3 on aggregate.
Against the run of play Barca went in 2-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Pedro and Dani Alves, but a spirited fightback that produced goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema just fell short for Jose Mourinho's team.
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg Real Madrid knew they faced an uphill task in turning over the deficit at Camp Nou, but they almost had the ideal start. A mistake inside 11 seconds of the start saw Gerard Pique gift Gonzalo Higuain possession, and the striker shot just wide of Pinto's goal.
The nervy start for Barcelona got ever shakier moments later when the Argentine forward forced a point blank save from Pinto, as he found himself in acres of space when Xabi Alonso's free-kick arrived at the back post.
Barca took stock and recomposed themselves, but Real remained on the front foot and Ronaldo was the next player to work Pinto from a shot as Real caught their rivals on the break.
Mesut Ozil continued the assault with a piledriver of a shot from 30 yards that cannoned off the underside of the bar, and Pinto gave the ball away to Higuain who shot straight back at him as Barca continued to falter under intense pressure.
The home side lost the services of Andres Iniesta to injury on the half-hour mark, and it was his replacement Pedro who sparked a five-minute period leading into half time that completely turned the game in Barca's favour.
A break from Lionel Messi saw the Real defence drawn to the Argentine, allowing Pedro to arrive on the left, receive his team-mate's dinked pass and slot home to crush Real's morale.
That goal came on 43 minutes, and just two later and right on the stroke of half time Barca doubled their advantage, striking another significant blow. Lassana Diarra gave away a free-kick, and when the resulting set piece was cannoned into the Real man the ball spun loose to Alves who sent a stunning, unstoppable missile flying into the top-left corner.
Deflated and stunned at the interval, Real emerged for the second half and were met by a buoyant Barca side who began to pass with a comfort and assuredness well associated with Guardiola's side but which was somewhat lacking in the first half.
Real thought they were back in it when Sergio Ramos headed Alonso's free-kick in, but he was adjudged to have fouled Alves in doing so.
Just when it seemed that Real were out of it, a four-minute burst flipped the game wide open as goals from Ronaldo and then substitute Benzema levelled the score.
Ozil first played Ronaldo in and the Portuguese rounded Pinto, finishing from a tight angle to pull one back. Then in the 72nd minute Benzema flicked the ball over Carles Puyol and equalised with an equally calm effort to make it 2-2.
The tension thereafter was palpable, as Real sensed a winner on the evening that would have sent them through on away goals. They pushed, as did Barcelona, so much so that Ramos was sent off in the 88th minute as he picked up a second booking.
Neither side could find the goal that would put the game beyond doubt for either in the dying moments, and it ended all square on the night and 4-3 on aggregate to Barcelona, as they knocked the holders out to progress to the semi-finals.

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