Abidal gives Barcelona the advantage

Eric Abidal’s second half winner saw Barcelona come from behind to take a 2-1 lead in their Copa Del Ray quarter final with Real Madrid.

Real Madrid had opened the scoring early on through Cristiano Ronaldo only for Barca captain Carlos Puyol to head a deserved equaliser moments into the second half. And with time running out, Pep Guardiola’s side won it as Abidal found space in the Madrid penalty area and guided his finish past Iker Casillas.

For the second consecutive time Barcelona came from behind to extend their incredible form in this match under Guardiola and their victory loosens Real’s grip on their only trophy in the Jose Mourinho era.

Pepe was again given a midfield role in the ‘El Clasico’ by Mourinho as Ricardo Carvalho, appearing in the white of Real for the first time since September, partnered Sergio Ramos in the heart of Madrid’s defence.

Despite being on the back foot for most of the opening exchanges, Real opened the scoring through their likeliest of sources. Benzema did brilliantly to find the recently maligned Ronaldo and the Portuguese international smashed home through the legs of Pinto. Ronaldo’s strike was hard; however Pinto should’ve dealt with the effort, as Pep Guardiola’s decision to rotate his keeping options back-fired.

Moments later Alexis Sanchez almost levelled for Barcelona as he headed against the bar. Andres Iniesta’s cross was perfect for Sanchez and his header had Iker Casillas beaten, only to bounce back of the frame of the goal.

Unsurprisingly the game followed its usual theme of Barcelona attack up against a stern Real defence as the likes of Xavi and Cesc Fabregas controlled the game from the midfield area.

Iniesta missed his sides best chance in the first half, shooting wide when well placed. Xavi found Alexis Sanchez with room in the penalty area, and the former Udinese man unselfishly passed to Iniesta; however the World Cup winner’s first touch was poor, ensuring the shooting angle was narrow and Ramos’s saving lunge was enough to put Iniesta off who put wide.

Half time came and went and it wasn’t long before Barcelona converted their pressure into an impact on the score line. Barcelona’s seventh corner of the match was superbly headed home by Puyol. The captain of the Catalan giants lost Pepe and gave Casillas no chance with a brilliant finish.

Benzema nearly gave the holders their lead back but the former Lyon man’s header, from a great Hamit Altintop cross, clipped the post and went wide.

Sergio Busquests really should’ve completed the comeback but somehow headed over when it looked easier to score.

Pepe and Busquests continued to games trend of bad sportsmanship, with both regular offenders playing acting far too much. Pepe in particular embarrassed himself after making out Fabregas had caught him with a stray elbow, despite replays showing the contact, if any, was minimal.

If Real Madrid’s opener was from a predictable source then Barca’s winner couldn’t have been more unlikely as Abidal gave Barcelona a deserved lead. Lionel Messi, who by his standards has a quiet evening, found space on a rare occasion, before threading a beautiful pass through for the rampaging Abidal, who finished well past Casillas.

With Barcelona ahead, Madrid players lost their cool and Carvalho was fortunate on two occasions not to see red. Firstly the former Chelsea defender hacked away at Messi and got a yellow card for his troubles; though on another day he could’ve seen red for a deliberate and crude foul. And in injury time Carvalho clearly fouled the sub Adriano, yet his mister mina went unpunished as Real avoided going down to ten men, but didn’t avoid defeat.

Josh Jones

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