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Copa del Rey: Barca make case for defense with 1-0 win at Real Madrid in semis

Madrid, March 3 (IANS) FC Barcelona produced a rock-solid and very untypical defensive display to beat Real Madrid 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal.

Real Madrid dominated the ball and had Barca pinned back for much of the game, with Frenkie de Jong, Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde all outstanding; Madrid barely produced a save from Marc Andre Ter Stegen all game.

Without Robert Lewandowski, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele, Barca opted for a pragmatic approach, with Franck Kessie in the starting 11 and Raphinha and Ferran Torres carrying the visitors’ attack.

Real Madrid dominated possession in the first half, with Luka Modric running on goal in the first minute, although the offside flag went up. The flag went up again in the 12th minute to rule out an effort from Benzema after a good cross from Vinicius Junior, who was involved in most of Madrid’s attacking play, but also looking for niggles with the Barca players, reports news agency Xinhua.

Barca opened the scoring with a touch of fortune in the 27th minute. Eduardo Camavinga lost possession in his own half, the ball was threaded to Kessie and although Thibaut Courtois saved well with his feet, the ball rebounded into the net off Eder Militao.

Vinicius responded with a cross that was cut out by Ter Stegen and after Gavi’s cross just evaded Raphinha, Dani Carvajal wasted Real Madrid’s best chance of the half, drifting in unmarked behind the Barca defense before volleying high and wide.

Madrid came strongly out of the blocks at the start of the second half, but despite Barca at times being reduced to clearing the ball aimlessly upfield for Raphinha to chase, the only save Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to make was from Vinicius’ curling cross.

Barca could have made it 2-0 only for Ansu Fati to deflect Kessie’s shot wide when it looked to have beaten Courtois, and Rodrygo fired wide in the closing moments, but Barca will be happy with the result ahead of the return in the Camp Nou on April 5th.

–IANS

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