A late goal by Real Madrid saved them from dropping the first leg in this Copa del Rey semifinal at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, as they earned a 1-1 draw with Barcelona.
This was another amazing installment of El Clasico, even though it was stunningly short on goals. It isn't often that a match involving the two legends in the pic provided by Info Cristiano is going to see the first half end with the score at 0-0.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi before the match. #elclasico http://t.co/eurSkapq2013-1-30 20:37:37
That is exactly what happened in this match. Although, it wasn't because of sloppy or dull play; both teams were working hard for chances. The pace was outstanding, and the action was flowing up and down the pitch.
However, there were a few blown chances, some excellent defense and thus no scoring.
It didn't take long for that to change in the second half.
In the 50th minute, Cesc Fabregas had a one-on-one and did not disappoint, as he fired cross-pitch past the outstretched arm of Diego Lopez inside the left post.
The relatively easy score was made possible after a well-placed pass by none other than Lionel Messi. The assist just adds another record to the already heavily decorated player, as Soccer Players FC points out.
Soccer Players FC @SoccerPlayersFC
Messi gave his 11th assist in #ElClasico The most in history.2013-1-30 21:15:22
At this point, the action was really getting furious, as the two sides raced up and down the pitch.
Barca had an excellent chance to put this game away, as Pedro streaked out into the open, but he missed a one-on-one that needed to be converted. However, Pedro hesitated and hit a poorly struck ball wide of the left post
Not long after, Pedro came off the pitch in favor of Alexis Sanchez.
Then the match got really interesting. In his Clasico debut, Raphael Varane went up high in the 81st minute to drill home a header for the equalizer.
The action remained intense and open following the equalizer, but all chances were thwarted, and we ended with the 1-1 draw.
Despite blowing a chance to take an early lead on their home pitch in this semifinal, Real Madrid should be counting their lucky stars. They were outplayed, dominated in possession, and were it not for some blown chances, they would be trailing in aggregate right now.
Cristiano Ronaldo injured his ankle this past Sunday, but he didn't let that keep him off the pitch. He wasn't visibly hampered by the injury, but he also didn't add any goals.
It was not for a lack of effort. Ronaldo was aggressive and helped open up the play. He just didn't come away with anything to show for it.
Lionel Messi: B+
Once again, Lionel Messi was fantastic. Like Ronaldo, he didn't fill up the net like we are accustomed to seeing, but he was aggressive and really pushed to open up play.
Messi also had the key assist on Fabregas' goal.
Cesc Fabregas: A-
Fabregas was active all match. He did a nice job of finding space while looking for ways to score. He finally had the breakthrough in the 50th minute and continued to press throughout.
Diego Lopez: C
If you hold Barcelona to one goal, it is an accomplishment. That said, Lopez looked a touch out of sorts today.
He was staying deep in the box and coming off of his line far too often, and he was lucky he did not get burnt on this strategy more often.