DCSIMG

Barca hold off rousing Real revival to progress

Barcelona scraped into the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 4-3 aggregate win over Real Madrid despite letting a two-goal lead slip at the Nou Camp.

Barca appeared to have put the tie to bed with two goals just before half-time. Pedro Rodriguez finished calmly at the end of a trademark run and pass by Lionel Messi before Dani Alves rocketed a shot in from the edge of the box with the last kick of the half. But the visitors responded with two goals in four minutes themselves midway through the second period as Cristiano Ronaldo rounded Pinto to slot home before Karim Benzema took advantage of some slack Barca defending to equalise.

The visitors pushed for the winner but finished with ten men as Sergio Ramos was dismissed for two bookable offences. The drama started before the game as Jose Mourinho started Pepe despite his stamp on Messi in last week’s 2-1 first-leg defeat. However, in line with a much more offensive approach from Mourinho, Pepe started in central defence with Kaka and Mesut Ozil drafted into midfield.

Barcelona were forced into a change on 29 minutes as Andres Iniesta limped off to be replaced by Pedro.

And the substitute was to prove crucial as the hosts scored twice in three minutes before the break. Firstly, Messi collected the ball in midfield and drove forward at the Real defence before laying a beautiful pass into the path of Pedro and the winger finished with aplomb.

Lassana Diarra was lucky to stay on the field two minutes later as having already been booked he chopped down Messi just outside the area, but the free-kick was to prove costly for the visitors anyway as Alves latched onto Messi’s deflected effort and bulleted a shot into the top corner.

Real thought they had a way back into the match eight minutes after half-time but Ramos’ header was ruled out for a pull on Alves. They did half the deficit on the night 14 minutes later though as Ronaldo raced through on goal and showed great composure to round Pinto and slot into the empty net.

Four minutes later it was 2-2 as Pique’s clearance was intercepted by Ozil and Benzema took the ball past Carles Puyol before dispatching it into the net.

Messi twice came within inches of sealing the tie as his free-kick drifted just over and then another effort from just outside the area went wide, but the hosts had to endure a nervy finish before Ramos was sent off for a second yellow card with two minutes remaining.

 

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