Trailing fifteen league points behind their arch rivals Barcelona in the league Real Madrid had a lot to prove tonight in the Copa Del Rey semi final. Their team was ravaged by injury and suspension and they took to the Bernabau with a steely resolve to avoid further embarrassment. Jose Mourinho must have been fearing for his job and reputation he hoped that his second string would answer his prayers.
The home side ran onto the pitch and played as if their lives depended on it. Pique took Ronaldo down in the first minute and was cautioned. The resulting free kick needed an acrobatic save from Pinto. Real Madrid were closing down space well and putting Barcelona under real pressure. Chances fell to Barcelona after a tense opening. An Iniesta lob found the darting run of Alba but he volleyed the ball wide. Xavi rattled the crossbar with a free kick. A suicidal back pass from Carvalho was snatched by Fabregas who leaped over the advancing Lopez. He swiveled and cut the ball back to Xavi whose right footed drive was cleared off the line by the inspirational teenager Varane. The teams ran to the tunnel at half time goalless after a pulsating opening forty five minutes.
After the restart Benzema missed a good chance to open Real’s account. However it was the visitors who broke the deadlock. A casual clearance was latched onto by Messi whose interception found its way to Cesc Fabregas who found himself one on one with Diego Lopez. He made no mistake and found the bottom corner. While it was expected to be a goal fest this game turned out to be a lesson in defending. Fabregas ran through on goal and looked to be on course for his second only to be denied by a spectacular tackle from Varane. Alves and Pique both made brilliant sliding tackles to intercept low balls across the Barcelona six yard box to deny Madrid a reply.
Pedro looked to put the tie beyond the home side as he was played through in an acre of space in one of Barcelona’s swift counter attacks. He bore down on goal but fluffed his one on one with Lopez. He was substituted for Alexis Sanchez immediately after – a move that must have left David Villa scratching his head on the bench. However it was to be Varane who was to be next on the score sheet. The nineteen year old rose to meet an Oezil cross and headed past Pinto. He was on course for man of the match before the goal. After it he etched his name into the hearts of the home support forever.
A draw and an away goal is not a bad result for Barcelona but they will be disappointed in missing numerous chances to put this tie to bed tonight.