26 February 2013
Real Madrid’s tough week could not have started better than it did today. The Whites deservedly became the Copa del Rey’s first finalists and will play for the title for second time in the last three seasons. They did so in a blaze of glory after giving Barcelona a lesson in tactics in the Camp Nou. With a flawless approach and near perfect defensive play, they only took 13 minutes to go ahead. Cristiano Ronaldo opened up the scoring from a penalty. In the second half, Real Madrid were much more comfortable on the field and the proof came in the form of two goals which put the result of the spectacular match beyond doubt. Another from Ronaldo, who is the only player in history to have scored in six consecutive away Clasicos, and a fine header from Varane. Their opponents in the final will be Atletico Madrid.
The reward was too great for to leave things to chance. Real Madrid and Barcelona, the last two champions of the Copa del Rey, played the third Clasico of the season at the Camp Nou with the final on the horizon. The result of the first leg left the tie wide open and the match did not disappoint anyone. Both sides laid their cards on the table from the first minute. The home side looked to keep possession of the ball and the visitors focused on a suffocating press and fast breaks looking to unleash perhaps the best counterattack world. It did not take much time for Jose Mourinho’s approach to get the desired returns. Only 13 minutes had been played when Higuain saw Cristiano Ronaldo lose his marker and play the ball into the Portuguese, who came up against Pique and was then clearly brought down by the defender inside the area. The Portuguese converted the penalty, put his team ahead and made history by becoming the only player to have scored in six consecutive away Clasicos.
The Whites had chances to score and they were well earned. Playing with two lines close together and a perfectly polished defensive coverage, Real Madrid knew that the passage of time was to their advantage. Their opponent would have to leave more space and this was the ideal breeding ground for the counterattack. In fact, before the break they could have scored the second from either of two Cristiano Ronaldo shots from the edge of the box in the 23rd and 36th minutes, and a free-kick taken by Ozil that flew across the area without finding a teammate to provide the finish in the 41st minute. Real Madrid went into the dressing room with what they had to do done: they had scored and not conceded. There were 45 minutes still to go.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored another brace and Varane scored again from a set piece
Neither team changed their approach in the second half and the first chance was created by the visitors, who were becoming more and more comfortable on the pitch. Xabi Alonso pass inside to Coentrao, who carried on into the area but his shot did not trouble Pinto, who comfortably saved in the 50th minute. Real Madrid did not let their opponents off so easily with their next chance. Khedira’s clearance was directed into the path of Di Maria’s run, whose double dummy left Puyol on the ground and put him one-on-one with Pinto. The Argentine's shot forced the goalkeeper to show his best, but the rebound was taken advantage of by Cristiano Ronaldo, who brought the ball down with his chest before placing it into the net with ease in the 57th minute. 0-2 and brace from Portuguese.
Barcelona would have to score three goals if they wanted to become cup finalists and they went in search of the goal that would give them at least a glimmer of hope. The Whites, who were smart throughout the entire match, dealt the final blow to their opponents in the 68th minute. It came from a corner taken by Ozil and Varane leaping high in the area and scoring with his head. The way that the ball touched the underside of the crossbar on its way into the top corner made the goal look even more outstanding. In the 89th minute Jordi Alba reduced the arrears, but the Whites, deservedly and in a blaze of glory, became the cup’s first finalists. Their opponents in the final will be Atletico Madrid.