On Wednesday evening Barcelona and Real Madrid faced each other at Camp Nou in the first leg the Copa Del Rey semi-final.
The match started with a bang when Lucas Vazquez put the visitors 1-0 up after just six minutes. He finished nicely from close range after an impressive build-up from the young Vinicius Junior, who put the ball in the box allowing Benzema to skillfully set up an easy chance for Vazquez. The next period of the game saw a sustained Barca pressure with Luis Suarez and the like, having plenty of chances and forcing numerous impressive saves from Madrid’s keeper Keylor Navas. Barcelona came extremely close to equalising when Ivan Rakitić’s header hit the bar after a nice delivery from Malcom’s free kick. The game then became very back and forth with both sides having opportunities. Vinicius Junior missed a few chances for Madrid while Barca forced Navas to make save after save. Eventually, the half-time whistle went with Madrid leading 1-0 at the break.
Early in the second half, it continued to be a balanced affair, however, the deadlock was broken with Barcelona netting an equaliser. After Alba’s cross hit the post and fell back into the penalty area, the Brazilian Malcom finished from a difficult angle to put his side leveled. Madrid’s right back Dani Carvajal was heavily involved in the action in the second half, popping up to crucially block Carles Aleña’s effort when he was virtually clean through on goal. Later in the half, Carvajal was involved in a possible penalty shot when he needlessly bundled into Luis Suárez at the edge of the box near the byline and sent him to ground. However, the ref, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, saw nothing of it and allowed the game to continue.
In the 81st minute, it looked like Madrid may get a decisive goal when a great chance arose after Barcelona’s keeper, Ter Stegen, gave the ball away. Madrid was able to get the ball to Gareth Bale in the box with the goalkeeper out of position, but he was unable to convert after his effort was blocked well by Barcelona defender, Nélson Semedo. There were a few chances later on in the game with Madrid’s centre back, Varane, coming close with a header in the 84th minute and, in added time, Sergio Ramos making a firm tackle to stop a dangerous Lionel Messi run in Madrid’s penalty area.
The first leg ended in a deserved 1-1 draw with both sides having chances to grab a win. Madrid will be satisfied taking this result away from Camp Nou and will feel confident regarding the overall cup tie with the second leg being played in Madrid. Man of the match has to either be Real Madrid’s exciting Brazilian winger, Vinicius Junior, for his darting runs and role in setting up his team’s goal or their keeper, Keylor Navas, for making so many challenging saves. Without these two it would have been a very different game for Madrid and Barcelona would likely have come away with the win.
This was the first of three El Clasico fixtures in the coming four weeks, with the next one being the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on the 27th of February and then the sides meeting in the league on the 2nd of March. Both upcoming fixtures are tantalising prospects which have the potential to provide plenty of drama and entertainment for the fans.