Barça’s Copa del Rey title defence is over after losing at home to a Real Madrid side that knew how to take its chances
Barça have gone out of the Copa del Rey after losing tonight’s semi final second leg at home to Real Madrid. Despite FCB getting a good result in the first leg at the Bernabéu (1-1), the all-whites, spurred on by an early penalty, were highly effective at the back and lethal up front. They made the most of their strongest points, mainly counter attacks and dead ball situations, to go three goals ahead, which meant the game was as good as over with most of the second half left to play. Jordi Alba pulled one back for Barça, but it was too little too late.
Penalty start for Madrid
Although things didn’t eventually turn out their way, Barça started the match confidently and dominantly. They only took a minute to get the first shot in, a Messi effort that spun wide following an excellent piece of play by Pedro. Barça were producing the combination football for which they are famed, but the threat was always going to be what Madrid might be able to produce on the counter. And that is just how the opening goal came about, with Piqué bringing down Cristiano Ronaldo in the area, and the Portuguese striker showing all the composure required of the occasion by expertly slotting the ensuing penalty past Pinto.
Despite the setback, Barça still looked recognisable, staying loyal to their patient waiting game and dominating the possession. But there was no doubt that Madrid’s goal had unsettled them, with the Catalans displaying a certain insecurity in attack along with some uncharacteristically nervy errors in defence. Meanwhile, Madrid looked to be gaining in confidence, and with their defensive line moved forward, the remainder of the half was a gripping tactical and athletic battle, with Madrid opting for a more direct approach, and Barça in particular looking to Alves and Pedro to work their magic down the right.
The tension was as high as it ever is when these two teams meet, and despite several interruptions and bookings (both FCB centre backs, Piqué and Puyol, were yellow carded), the football was still of the utmost quality. A Messi free kick skimmed just inches wide of the post and the half ended with Jordi Alba on the ground requiring medical attention, although fortunately he was able to continue.
Tragedy at the worst moment
The second half was as electric as the first. Coentrao came close after 49 minutes, and two minutes later Busquets had a chance at the other end. And Barça were on the attack again when Madrid sent a long ball flying up to other end of the park, and the home fans’ greatest fear was realised. It just wasn’t Barça’s night as far as luck was concerned. Puyol slipped before Di María and then Pinto was only able to parry the Argentinian’s shot into the feet of Cristiano, who made no mistake as he added his and Madrid’s second of the night. But not even that cruel blow disheartened Barça, who immediately went out in search of a way back into the match, but time and again they were denied by Madrid’s inspired Diego López in goal. There was still some hope, but it all faded to nothing when Varane rose to meet a corner and headed home the goal that made it 3-0, meaning that Barcelona now needed to score four goals to have any hope of qualifying.
Fans still on song
Despite the dreadful result for Barça’s interests, the Camp Nou never lost faith in its team, and the fans continued cheering them right until the end. Villa, Tello and Thiago were all sent on as FCB chased a miracle comeback. And despite the near impossibility of the task ahead of them, they never let their heads drop and in the 88th minute were finally rewarded by a Jordi Alba goal that ultimately only served to make the defeat that little bit easier to bear.