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Barcelona advanced to the Copa del Rey semi-finals with a 1-0 victory over fierce rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday evening.
Eder Militao accidently put the ball into his own net to determine the game, and the Catalans are now favorites to reach the final.
The hosts made a fast start and believed they had taken a merited lead when Karim Benzema chested down and finished beautifully. Nevertheless, the lineman’s flag cut short his celebrations.
The referees were once again at the center of the action when Barcelona bundled home an opener only to have the goal called out by another offside decision. VAR intervened and awarded the goal to Xavi’s relief.
That was the strike that ultimately decided the match.
VAR Madness Reigns in El Clasico Cup Tie
While VAR has its detractors, Barcelona manager Xavi will be grateful that it was used to see his team take the lead. Ferran Torres stole the ball from Eduardo Camavinga in midfield, allowing the ex-Manchester City star to charge toward the Real Madrid goal.
He then fed Franck Kessie, whose shot deflected off Eder Militao and into the net. The goal was first called offside, but a quick VAR review reversed that ruling.
While former AC Milan player Kessie appears to be the present and future of Barcelona’s midfield, Sergio Busquets appears to be setting up his departure from the Camp Nou.
The Spaniard has been linked with a move to Al-Nassr, where he would join Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia.
Yet, prior to his inevitable exit, he has become the all-time appearance maker in El Clasico. His presence on Thursday marked his 46th appearance in the historic match, breaking the previous record held by Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos.
Real Madrid’s star veteran Karim Benzema undoubtedly entered Thursday’s El Clasico with something to prove.
Following a phenomenal 2022, the Frenchman was not selected for the FIFPro World XI, and he was also defeated by Lionel Messi for the Men’s Player of the Year Award. An injury in Qatar also meant the player did not appear for France in the World Cup.
Apart from his disallowed goal versus Barca, the striker struggled to get involved after the visitors kept him at arm’s length. He’ll be hoping to find his scoring touch before his side’s weekend clash with Real Betis.
Barca’s New Style of Football under Xavi
Barcelona travelled to the Bernabeu last night and performed pragmatically under Xavi. The Catalan giants took a slightly different approach to the game than their usual possession dominant style.
Xavi’s team was content to hand over control of the ball to their opponents, who were confronted with a strong defense before springing counter-attacks. That worked several times, taking advantage of Camavinga’s mistakes in full back twice.
Barcelona should have won the game on the counter midway through the second half, but Kessie’s goal bound shot was stopped by teammate Ansu Fati.
While Xavi’s style of play is unlikely to win any awards in entertainment, it is undeniably efficient considering Barcelona’s La Liga advantage and this most recent victory on enemy territory.
Real now face an away trip to Barcelona in a few weeks, which will not be an easy challenge by any measure of the imagination.
The Catalans have only lost once at home this season, to Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stages. If they are unable to turn the tie around, Real’s season will be considered a failure on the domestic front.