Barca and Real close in on Copa del Rey final
Cup clasico in store as Spanish giants win the first legs of their semi-finals
Real Madrid spoiled Atletico Madrid’s short honeymoon as Spanish leaders by winning their Copa del Rey semi-final first leg, while Barcelona also took control of their semi with a win over Real Sociedad.
Pepe, Jese Rodriguez, and Angel Di Maria all scored as Madrid won a bad-tempered derby 3-0 to humble Atletico, three days after they took the outright league lead, with only a second loss of the season and first in 23 matches.
Barcelona did their part to increase the chances of a clasico in the April 19 final by beating 10-man Sociedad 2-0 at the Camp Nou.
Pepe spent much of the game riling up Atletico striker Diego Costa after putting Madrid ahead in the 17th minute at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium where his shot deflected off defender Emiliano Insua past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The hosts dominated the tetchy derby as Courtois made a string of first-half saves before Jese Rodriguez broke through in the 57th as the young striker continued his impressive season by using a quick touch to guide Angel Di Maria’s pass under the Belgium keeper.
Diego Costa’s frustrations got the better of him as a yellow card in the 61st means Atletico’s leading scorer will miss the return leg next week, which leaves the attack depleted with David Villa also expected to be sidelined by injury.
With Gareth Bale out for the second straight game and Cristiano Ronaldo strangely subdued, Di Maria capped a productive night with a goal from another deflected shot in the 73rd. It came just after Luka Modric cleared Diego Godin’s header off the goal-line for Atletico’s lone scoring opportunity.
Madrid have yet to concede in eight domestic cup matches this season.
“Everybody was fantastic, we did everything very well,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said after Madrid took a page out of Atletico’s book and played with pressure to keep the visitors from getting any time on the ball. “We showed we can excel in these types of contests.”
Atletico’s first defeat since October came three days after they took over the league lead outright for the first time since 1996.
“We didn’t come through and play the kind of game we wanted to. It’s unfortunate but there is still the return leg,” Atletico midfielder Koke said.
Sociedad’s intentions were clear as the Basque side sat back and tried to weather Barcelona’s pressure and strike on the counter, but goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto saved Carlos Vela’s shot as the Sociedad striker managed an attempt with Javier Mascherano dragging him to the ground.
“It should have been a penalty, and it would have changed the whole outlook of the game,” Vela said. “When [the referee] gives Barcelona an extra hand, it’s nearly impossible to beat them.”
Sociedad goalie Enaut Zubikarai did well to deny Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi before watching a ball skip through the area onto the foot of Sergio Busquets to bounce inside the post in the 44th.
Sociedad were reduced to 10 men after Inigo Martinez was shown his second yellow card for protesting the goal.
Barcelona exploited the extra space as Alexis Sanchez was played clear into the area in the 60th but shot off the post, with Gorka Elustondo mystifyingly clearing the loose ball back into the area where it came off Zubikarai into goal.
“We should have scored more goals after going a man up,” Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. “Both ties look similar, although Madrid look more in control of theirs.”
Like Ronaldo, Messi was also muted until Zubikarai saved his leaping volley effort near the close.