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FC Barcelona will not be appearing in what would have been an extraordinary eighth Copa del Rey Final in just ten years. And it hurts.
Despite going into tonight’s second leg with a one-goal head start following the mightily impressive first leg victory at the Bernabéu, and also despite a very strong first half performance, it is Real Madrid who will be facing Osasuna in Seville on May 6.
What’s more, they are doing so in incontestable fashion after inflicting a painful 4-0 defeat on a Barça team that will be wondering how they managed to let it happen.
Everything seemed to be going perfectly to plan before Madrid nicked a goal right at the end of a tight first half. They then stunned the Catalans with two quick goals just after the restart.
A shell-shocked Barça never managed to find a way back into the game, and when Madrid made it four, they knew there was no coming back.
Frustration before the break...
But although the moment it all started going wrong was Madrid’s opening goal, it could have been so different. Courtois had just produced an astonishing save to deny Lewandowski. Had that gone in, Barça would have going in for the break with job almost done.
Instead, Real Madrid broke on the counter. Kounde looked to have blocked Vinícius' shot, but the danger wasn’t over and the ball bounded over the line. Benzema looked to have poked it home but replays showed the ball was already in when he touched it.
Until then, neither side had been in full control of a feisty game. Madrid desperately defended the several Barça chances, but also gave the Catalan defence a thing or two to think about.
...Further agony after the restart
We were now all square on aggregate, but there was no real cause for alarm. Barça were creating chances and there were sure to be more to come. There was certainly no reason to fear the kind of outcome that this game would ultimately have.
Then, in the fifth minute of the second half, a fine strike from Benzema had Ter Stegen beaten and Madrid now led 2-0 on the night, 2-1 on aggregate.
Barça surged forward in search of a response, and on a number of occasions came very close to finding one, but the mission was made even harder when Kessie caught Vinícius’ foot in the area and Ter Stegen was facing Benzema once again, this time from the penalty spot. 3-0 Real Madrid.
On the blink of an eyelid, a game that was utterly wide open was suddenly falling agonisingly out of Barça’s hands.
It was infuriating to watch. Barça were doing absolutely nothing wrong, but Madrid were doing what Madrid do. In fact, they had two strong chances to make it four, one denied by a fabulous save from Ter Stegen... before they did indeed deliver the final blow.
It was that man Karim Benzema again, making it 4-0 with first Clásico hat-trick for a Real Madrid player since Iván Zamorano way back in 1995.
Until then there had still been hope. But the moment that goal went in, the 94,902 fans at Spotify Camp Nou knew that it wasn’t going to happen. The 32nd Copa del Rey title is going to have to wait.
In contrast, the next Liga title could be coming a lot sooner... Next up, it's Girona on Easter Monday.
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