Advantage Barca! FC Barcelona won the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg 1-0 against Real Madrid on Thursday at the Santiago-Bernabéu, but the Merengues will still have a chance to snatch a ticket to the final in the second leg at Camp Nou, April 5.
In this harsh and committed clasico, the Catalans took the lead thanks to a gag goal initiated by Franck Kessié, whose strike was repelled by Thibaut Courtois then deflected towards his own goal by Eder Militao, and grazed by Nacho (26th).
A goal validated by the VAR after having however been refused by the touch referee for an offside position by Ferran Torres, who did not play any action.
And a goal as a reply to the first goal scored a few minutes earlier (12th) by Karim Benzema, with a sublime sequence of chest control cross shots, at the conclusion of a lobbed cross from Vinicius… but which he was canceled by the VAR for a clear offside position.
The French center-forward, already transparent during the derby hanging against Atlético on Saturday (1-1) at the Bernabéu, failed to shine further: his team failed to frame the slightest shot of the entire game (out of 13 strikes).
– Kessié, the rebirth –
For Kessié, on the other hand, it is a rebirth. The Ivorian international midfielder who joined Catalonia last summer took his troubles patiently, and saw his playing time swell with the injuries of Sergio Busquets and Pedri. He took the opportunity to score a goal in the round of 16 of the King’s Cup, and a half-goal on Thursday evening.
Even two half-goals: in the 72nd, his recovery in the area was heading straight for the goal, but Ansu Fati involuntarily deflected the ball, and sent it six yards.
Thursday, Kessié was well aligned alongside Busquets. The Blaugrana captain played his 46th clasico on Thursday, one more than the previous record holders, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos (45).
Less dominant but more realistic, the Catalans can be satisfied with this prestigious success which comes at the best time, after an elimination in the Europa League play-offs at Old Trafford against Manchester United and a 1-0 defeat at promoted Almeria in La Liga. .
– Hot return –
Conversely, this new defeat in a clasico shakes the solid foundations of the “White House”. Carlo Ancelotti’s men, already beaten 3-1 by the Catalans in the Spanish Super Cup final in January in Saudi Arabia and trailing seven points in the league, will have to play their way in the return match, which promises to be boiling.
Already on Thursday, the Merengue fans had however taken it upon themselves to raise the pressure before kick-off: a handful of them had gathered in front of the Bernabéu gates to throw 500 euro notes in the air, in order to to denounce “corruption in the federation” and “the Negreira affair”, this scandal of alleged multi-millionaire payments from FC Barcelona to a former referee of the federation.
“When this team is close to a title, the pressure cooker heats up,” Ancelotti had warned the day before at a press conference.
In the final, the winner of this clasico in double confrontation will find Osasuna or Athletic Bilbao. On Wednesday, the Navarrese took the 1-0 advantage thanks to a nice goal against former Barcelona player Ez Abde, but Ernesto Valverde’s men will still be able to grab a ticket in the return match on April 4 at San Mamés.