The first El Clásico of the week belongs to the best team in Spain. Barcelona survived 60 incredible minutes of pressure from Real Madrid in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi final at the Santiago Bernabéu, but displayed their brutally efficient side by scoring three second half goals and reaching the Spanish Cup Final for the fifth consecutive year.
The game started very slowly, with both sides clearly focused on not conceding an early goal instead of going forward with numbers. Madrid had more intensity and pressed higher up the pitch, and Vinicius Junior was always involved in their most dangerous attacking moments as the half went on.
Barça had more possession and were patient with it, not committing too many men forward and just waiting for the right moment to strike. They didn’t create any real chances, though, while Real had three giant opportunities with Karim Benzema and Vinicius (twice), but they could not find a way to beat Marc-André Ter Stegen.
The huge chances for Los Blancos finally forced Barça to play with more urgency, and we saw a few nice sequences of passing and possession in the final minutes of the half. No chances were made, but at least the team looked better.
At halftime, the 0-0 result was sending Madrid to the Final, and Barça needed to find goals in the second half.
Karim Benzema nearly scored a header to start the second half, and it just looked like this wasn’t going to be Barça’s night. But then Ousmane Dembélé got in behind the Madrid defense and found Luis Suárez, who scored a great goal and gave the visitors the lead. Real needed a goal to at least force extra time, and Barça just needed to survive and try to score on the counter as the home team amped up the pressure.
Ter Stegen and Nélson Semedo were absolutely immense at the back as Madrid created giant chance after giant chance, and as we reached a point where it seemed like Barça weren’t going to hold on to their lead, Dembélé got in behind once again and played a dangerous cross into the box that Raphael Varane deflected into his own net.
Just three minutes later, Casemiro fouled Luis Suárez inside the box, and the Uruguayan scored a Panenka to make it 3-0 and kill off the semi final. Madrid were playing for their honor and continued to attack in the final 20 minutes, but Barça started to dominate possession and just passed the ball around as they waited for the final whistle.
It finally came, and Barça are playing another Cup Final. And they got to this one by beating their biggest rivals over two legs. Man, I love this team.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Roberto, Busquets (Arthur), Rakitic, Dembélé (Coutinho); Messi, Suárez (Vidal)
Goals: Suárez (50’, 73’), Varane (OG 69’)
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Reguilón; Modric, Casemiro (Valverde), Kroos; Vázquez (Bale), Benzema, Vinicius (Asensio)