Cesc Fabregas Clasico

Copa Clasico Ends in Tie

8:01 PMAleks Vee

Neither of La Liga's two historic rivals grabbed an advantage at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the Copa del Rey. Madrid started as they normally do, fast and applying plenty of pressure early on. The club is currently in 3rd place in La Liga, separated from rivals Barcelona by a 15-point gap. Mourinho's side allowed Barcelona to dominate their side of the pitch for awhile, letting Messi pass the ball along the right flank while Fabregas graced the side netting. Cristiano Ronaldo did not see much of the ball, except for a very early chance from a free kick that was saved by Barcelona's keeper. Madrid's goalkeeper Diego Lopez, a recent addition to the squad and former teammate of Iker Casillas, did a great job in goal as well. The former Sevilla keeper may pose serious competition to Madrid's number 1, considering Casillas's recent injury as well as his rocky relationship with manager Jose Mourinho.

Barcelona played on counters throughout the first 45, getting flashes of possession in Madrid's 18-yard box. Mourinho's side made things harder for themselves by collecting fouls, slowing down the game before they could make it near the visitors' side of the pitch. The game itself was rather even, however, as both sides picked up a few dangerous chances. Ozil ran past a trio of defenders, after which Benzema got the ball to Cristiano Ronaldo, who couldn't get his timing right to reach the ball. A Barca free kick near the edge of the box got Xavi a shot that hit the crossbar. Madrid may have led in fouls, but Barcelona had a few problems of their own, delivering theatrics that would have put the corniest Broadway musical to shame.

It didn't take long for the visitors to come back from a scoreless half and net in a goal. It was a gift-wrapped present from Callejon, whose terrible clearance became a costly error for his team. Messi quickly stole the ball, feeding it to Fabregas, who netted it in the far post. Ronaldo came close to an equalizer with an instinctive header at the near post, but missed the mark just two meters away from the target. He got another shot again soon, but this time Gerard Pique slid in. Replays of the challenge show that it could have earned Madrid a penalty. The official's obliviousness wasn't surprising, however, as he fell for Barcelona's theatrics earlier, giving away set pieces. Pedro Rodriguez nearly made it 2-0 after a solo run; Arbeloa was the only player catching up, yet Rodriguez's shot still missed the far post from 6 meters out. As the match drew to a close, Barcelona tried the tactic of falling like flies once more, but to no avail. Though Dani Alves was at times guilty of theatrics, his defending was solid and consistent.

The visitors' performance in no way reflected their gap with Madrid - it was as equal a Clasico as it could be. Madrid found a late equalizer when Ozil's cross gave Varane a beautiful far post header off the pitch. The last chance for the La Liga front-runners to beat their 3rd place rivals was Jordi Alba's far post attempt, saved by the ever-dependable Diego Lopez.

The first Clasico of the year was perhaps a truer reflection of both teams than the league's standings. Madrid's thirst for the Cup is a mirror image of Barcelona's. Whichever team makes the final will undoubtedly get through on a chance goal or penalties. Winning the Copa del Rey is vital for Madrid, who fell from last season's top spot, spurring talk of Mourinho's leave. Barcelona has a shot at doubling the silverware this season. More trophies wouldn't hurt either team, though more is at stake for Madrid after Mourinho voiced a surrender on winning this season's championship.

El Clasico - Copa del Rey Semi-Final, 1st Leg
Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 3:00PM (ET)

Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona - 1:1 (0:0)
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid)
Referee: Carlos Clos Gomez (Zaragoza)
0:1 Cesc Fabregas (50')
1:1 Raphael Varane (Asst. Mesut Ozil) (81')

Half Time Stats:
Possession: 36:64
Goal attempts: 3:3
Shots (on target): 4(2):4(1)
Fouls committed: 12:1
Yellow cards: 2:1
Red cards: 0:0
Corners: 3:1
Possession lost: 28:31
Interceptions: 40:38

Full Time Stats:
Possession: 39:61
Goal attempts: 6:8
Shots (on target): 9(3):4(10)
Fouls committed: 19:6
Yellow cards: 3:3
Red cards: 0:0
Corners: 7:3
Possession lost: 54:56
Interceptions: 78:84

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