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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Cup matches are always unpredictable affairs. FC Barcelona and Malaga drew 2-2 in the quarter final first leg, which leaves everything to be decided in the second leg next Thursday in Andalusia. Iturra put the visitors ahead and although Barça almost immediately bounced back with goals from Messi and Puyol, not even against ten men after Monreal was ordered off were they able to extend their lead. Then disaster struck in the final minute, when Camacho levelled affairs with an all-important second away goal for Malaga, meaning a draw probably won’t be enough for Barcelona when the sides meet again next week.

Malaga go ahead

Tito Vilanova made eight changes to the side that had won so convincingly against Malaga in the Liga fixture at the weekend, but the first five minutes of the game suggested that FCB were going to be just as superior. Weligton had to clear an early Thiago chip off the goal-line and then Alexis sent a sitter into the clouds following a lethal pass delivered by Tello from the left. Despite the cold, windy conditions at the Camp Nou, Barça were looking as strong as ever, but just when it looked like everything was perfectly under control, an error in the middle of the park allowed Iturra to rob Thiago of possession on the edge of the area and then strike the ball low and hard past Pinto. In their first serious attack of the night, Malaga had taken the lead.

Speedy comeback

Barça didn’t take long to respond to that early setback. Messi conjured up some of his famous magic down the right wing, his position in his earliest days in the first team, beating three opponents before losing possession and then recovering it from Weligton in the danger-zone. A deft finish completed a move that the Argentinian had started in his own half. But rather than celebrate, he grabbed the ball from the back of the net. This Barça team very rarely goes a goal down, and when they do, they are always keen to set things straight as quickly as possible. And incredibly, just sixty seconds later they were in front. This time it was Puyol who found the net, heading home with his back to goal. The remainder of the half was a constant onslaught on the Malaga area, with Barça’s closest opportunity falling to Alexis, who for the second time this evening missed a chance he would normally have converted with ease.

Monreal sent off

The second half started with Barça still looking very much the stronger side. However, they were clearly having problems with the build-up. Malaga were applying pressure just where it mattered in midfield, and this was preventing Barça from creating the number of chances they are used to. But the blue-and-whites were creating very little danger of their own, and Pinto did an expert job whenever he was called upon. With the game drawing to a close, Vilanova chose to send on Pedro, Cesc and Xavi. Curiously, it was following Cesc’s very first intervention, a pass to Messi, that Monreal was red carded. Malaga were going to be a man short for the last quarter of an hour.

Camacho levels

Barça looked to be home and dry, but couldn’t secure a third goal to put the win beyond doubt. Malaga’s defending was tight and effective, and clear-cut opportunities for FCB were practically inexistent. And with just one minute of normal time left to play, Camacho got on the end of a Duda free kick to stun the Camp Nou with a late equaliser. Now Barcelona are going to have to go and win in Malaga. Which is precisely what they just did on Sunday.


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