Real Madrid advance next round


Real Madrid and Barcelona started their Copa del Rey campaigns with surprisingly hard-fought wins over lower-tier teams on Wednesday, while third-division Atlético Baleares eliminated a second topflight side by beating Celta Vigo 2-1.

Madrid needed two late goals to beat Alcoyano 3-1, which one year before had eliminated the powerhouse in the same round of 32. Defender Eder Militao put Madrid ahead in front of 4,800 fans at El Collao Stadium. But the hosts created scoring chances throughout and pulled level in the 66th minute when Dani Vega cut back to avoid both Casemiro and Militao before curling home.

Marco Asensio put Madrid back in charge in the 76th when his shot hit a defender, leaving Alcoyano’s goalkeeper no chance to save. Fellow substitute Isco Alarcón ensured the win two minutes later.

Victory for Barcelona

Barcelona booked their place in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night after beating Linares 2-1 at the Estadio de Linarejos, but it was far from an easy match for Xavi Hernandez’s side.

The Catalan coach decided to give Dani Alves his second Barcelona debut as he occupied the right wing-back position in a 3-5-2 formation, while the likes of Ronald Araujo, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were all named in the starting line-up.

Linares, who play in Group II of the Primera RFEF, were the side who started the game the quicker, but Barcelona had the first clear chance to score through Araujo. Alves’ pinpoint corner from the left was met by the Uruguayan, who rose highest but saw his header towards the far post go just wide.

Barcelona youngster Ilias Akhomach had a good chance to give his team the lead in the 18th minute, but under pressure, he dragged his effort off target. Then, a minute later, Linares took a surprise lead through Hugo Diaz. Fran Carnicer sent in a cross from the right and Diaz got away from Oscar Mingueza to get his head on the end of it and guide the ball beyond the reach of Neto.

That seemed to wake up Barcelona, who created a series of chances through Ferran Jutgla, Riqui Puig and Eric Garcia, but the hosts held on and were able to go into the half-time break with a one-goal lead.

Xavi was clearly unhappy with his team’s performance and opted to make three changes at the break, with Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele coming on for Araujo, Riqui Puig and Ilias.

The introduction of Dembele, in particular, saw the Linares defenders begin to panic, and it took 18 minutes before the Frenchman got Barcelona back in the game. After receiving a pass from Mingueza, Dembele shifted the ball away from Alvaro Barbosa and sent a left-footed shot towards goal that made its way into the bottom left corner, although perhaps Linares ‘keeper Brimah Razak should have done a bit better.

It then felt inevitable that Barcelona would go on and grab a winner, and so they did. Linares had the ball in the back of Barcelona’s net in the 67th minute, but Hugo Diaz was adjudged to have interfered from an offside position, and one minute later the Catalans were ahead.

Ferran Jutgla received the ball on the left-wing and came inside before turning Linares centre-back Lolo Guerrero inside out and firing into the far corner of Razak’s goal to give Barcelona the lead. With Dembele on the pitch, Jutgla became more involved for Barcelona.

The drama was not over there, though, as the ball hit the woodwork on two occasions in the final 15 minutes – first Cristian Carracedo for Linares and then Dembele for Barcelona.

Barcelona were made to suffer right to the very end by Linares, but Dembele and Jutgla’s goals mean that they are into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.


Courtesy: AP and MARCA

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