Barcelona stun Madrid to march into Copa del Rey final
It sounds a cliche, but football really is all about scoring goals. Despite creating much better goalscoring opportunities, Real Madrid found themselves on the wrong end of a humiliating scoreline against their greatest rival. Manager Santiago Solari once again opted for the attacking trident of Lucas Vazquez, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr, with Gareth Bale once again left on the substitutes bench.
This decision did not initially appear a bad one as Madrid troubled Barcelona from the off. Their first chance came on 18 minutes, when Sergio Reguilon played Vinicius in, but the youngster could only fire over from close range. Reguilon, again starting ahead of club legend Marcelo, was a constant threat down the left, and his link-up play with Vinicius brought chance after chance. The pair carved open the best opportunity of the first half shortly before the break, with the Spanish full-back crossing just behind the Brazilian, who turned and shot from ten yards out, but saw his effort fly just over.
Barcelona enjoyed a rare spell of dominance after the break and took full advantage to grab the lead on 51 minutes. Ousmane Dembele, once again starting ahead of Philippe Coutinho, drove down the left-wing before cutting back to Luis Suarez, who slotted a first-time shot at goal into the bottom corner of the net. Madrid reacted well, however, and began a barrage on the visitors' goal.
Lucas Vazquez was inches away from reaching a Reguilon cross, before Vinicius turned provider for his left-back, floating a cross into the box for Reguilon to head powerfully at goal. But Ter Stegen was equal to it, and saved magnificently, diving to his left to punch away. An effort from Dani Carvajal then flew in at goa, but again the Danish goalkeeper wouldn't be beaten. The hosts had failed to score during an extended period of dominance, and they paid the ultimate price.
Gareth Bale came on for Madrid on 69 minutes as Solari searched for an equalising goal, but he had been on the pitch mere seconds before Barcelona doubled their lead. Dembele had switched flanks and, this time on the right-wing, hit a low ball across goal. Suarez was waiting, but Raphael Varane got there first and poked the ball into the net to concede an unfortunate own-goal. Two minutes later the visitors had another, with Suarez surging into the area before jinking past Casemiro. The Brazilian, realising he was beaten, brought his opponent to the ground with a nasty stamp and conceded a penalty.
Up stepped Suarez, sending a chipped effort past Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas to seal the match and grab his second of the game. 'Los Blancos' never recovered, and spent the rest of the match in apparent shock at what had just happened, failing to trouble the Barcelona goal again. The final whistle brought an end to a bizarre encounter, and one which will be celebrated greatly back in Catalonia.