|Raphael Varane celebrates his goal against Barcelona|
The Clasico, the best match in the world, made its return to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The Whites, who had not lost either of their last two clashes with Barcelona, played the first leg of the cup semi-final with the invaluable help of a devoted home crowd. The beginning of the match left clear signs of the ambition with which the Real Madrid team had gone out on to the pitch. In fact, before the end of the first minute of play, Cristiano Ronaldo came away from midfield with the ball and could only be stopped by a Pique foul on the edge of the area. The Portuguese’s free-kick forced Pinto to show his best.
Real Madrid started courageously, ambitiously and pressing very high up the field. Barcelona, however, looked to kill off the match with long periods of possession. In one of them Iniesta won a foul and Xavi found the crossbar with the subsequent free-kick in the 22nd minute. Two minutes later the Catalan midfielder had another chance, but his shot from close range was cleared from the goal line by Varane. The Clasico wasn’t disappointing anybody and now it was the home side’s turn. A deep pass from Callejon and Benzema’s control without letting the ball drop, lead to the Frenchman firing wide into the side netting in the 27th minute.
The match was being played at a brutal pace and the last chance of the first half fell to Real Madrid. Essien played the ball to Callejon who made a precision pass that couldn’t find a teammate to finish it because Alves intercepted the ball in front of Benzema when the Frenchman was ready to tap the ball into the net in the 36th minute. Despite the absence of goals, the first half was intense, exciting and a treat for the spectators.
The second half began the same as the first. With Real Madrid pressing and having the first chance. Essien won the ball and it fell to Benzema, who after a beautiful one-two with Cristiano Ronaldo shot over the bar in the 47th minute. Nevertheless, it was Barcelona who went ahead on the scoreboard in the 50th minute. Fabregas pounced on a ball after a series of blocks and beat Diego Lopez in a one-on-one. 0-1 and the match completely changed.
Mourinho reacted and on 57 minutes brought on Modric for Callejon. Three minutes later his team came close to levelling the match. Essien’s good cross from the right lead to Cristiano Ronaldo’s head in front of goal which went a few inches wide of the post. In the 62nd minute the home team made their second substitution. Higuain came on in place of an exhausted Benzema. A change of approach at the head of the attack and Real Madrid kept trying to create chances. In fact, only a fortunate Pique prevented Ronaldo from finding himself in front of goal and being able to score in the 66th minute.
Barcelona could not maintain their defence in the 81st minute. Some trickery from Ozil and Varane, who was in the area following a corner, snuck in front of Pique and beat Pinto with a precise header. The Frenchman rounded-off his great match including some excellent defensive work with an important goal for his team in the context of the tie. The place in the final will be decided at the Camp Nou.
Stadium: Santiago Barnabeu
Goals: 0-1, m.50: Cesc abregas. 1-1, m.81: Varane.