Final, 2-1 Real Madrid: It’s all over at the Mestalla. Real Madrid has defeated Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.
The game was crying out for a moment of supreme quality when Bale answered the call and etched his name into Real Madrid’s lore. The Welshman’s dazzling solo goal (see it here) capped off a Real Madrid performance that was worthy of the Copa del Rey title.
Real Madrid attacked and defended effectively for most of the game. Bale, di Maria, Isco and Benzema were threatening going forward throughout, and helped their teammates remained largely solid in defense.
Barcelona had a 15-minute passage of play following Bartra’s goal in which it looked like a remarkable, come-from-behind victory was possible, but that stretch was one of few bright spots in a disappointing performance. Barcelona was too slow, narrow and predictable in its efforts to breach Real Madrid’s defense, and it didn’t defend well enough — both individually and collectively — to stop their speedy opponents.
Each team won three of six previous meetings in the Copa del Rey final. Real Madrid now stands ahead of its rival.
The Copa del Rey triumph will boost Real Madrid’s spirit as it chases bigger prizes, namely La Liga and the Champions League.
Barcelona was teetering on the brink of crisis coming into the game, having slipped in the league and suffered elimination from the Champions League in the last seven days. Wednesday’s result could consign Barcelona to a trophy-less season and seal Martino’s fate. The embattled Barcelona head coach is losing the fans’ support and defeat in “El Clasico final” could cost him the goodwill of Barcelona’s players and hierarchy.
See some game statistics below.
FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 16, 2014
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90th minute, 2-1 Real Madrid: Neymar hits the post after Xavi’s through-ball cut Real Madrid’s defense down the middle.
Neymar should have scored from 12 yards out with a right-footed dink, but Casillas cut down his angle by just enough to disrupt his shot.
88th minute, 2-1 Real Madrid: Casemiro replaces Isco in Real Madrid’s midfield.
87th minute, 2-1 Real Madrid: Alonso is cautioned for a foul on Messi.
86th minute, 2-1 Real Madrid: Both teams made a substitution after Bale’s goal.
Barcelona replaced Bartra with Alexis.
Real Madrid removed di Maria, bringing Illaramendi on.
85th minute, 2-1 Real Madrid: Bale scores a sensational solo goal.
Bale received a pass near where the sideline meets the halfway line. As Bartra closed him down and pushed him out of bounds, Bale touched it past the Barcelona defender, ran aournd him and sprinted nearly 60 yards toward the Barcelona goal.
Bale maintained control of the ball and poked it between Pinto’s legs from six yards out.
81st minute, 1-1: Modric bursts forward toward the Barcelona area and shoots from distance.
The shot eluded Pinto but hit the post.
79th minute, 1-1: Barcelona has improved since Bartra scored the game-tying goal.
Barcelona’s passing is more incisive in Real Madrid’s third of the field and it looks more dangerous than it did in the first 65 minutes.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid is struggling to establish any sort of rhythm and seems more nervous when defending.
71st minute, 1-1: Bale has a great opportunity to put Real Madrid back in front, but Pinto turns is effort away.
68th minute, 1-1: Bartra heads Barcelona level.
Xavi floated a corner to the far post. Pepe jumped in vain as it floated to Bartra, who thundered his header past the diving Casillas.
67th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Bale appeared to score, but the referee disallowed it.
Bale had his arm around Pinto as he jumped to head the ball in.
65th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Bartra dribbles forward and shoots powerfully from distance. Casillas makes a great save.
61st minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Ramos directs a header on the Barcelona goal, but Pinto makes the save.
60th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Pedro comes on for Fabregas, as Martino makes his second substitution.
53rd minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Busquets losses the ball in a dangerous area, allowing Bale to collect it and shoot from 20 yards out.
Bale’s side-winder shot went over the crossbar but only by a few feet.
52nd minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Mascherano is cautioned for bringing down Pepe, as the Real Madrid defender surged into the Barcelona half.
48th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Bale strides past Busquets into the Barcelona area but can’t hit the target with a toe-poked shot.
46th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Adriano is coming on for Alba in a halftime substitution.
Alba had a good first half, leading us to believe that he suffered an injury, which prevents him from continuing.
Halftime, 1-0 Real Madrid: The referee brings the first half to a close. Real Madrid leads at the interval.
Real Madrid’s game-plan has proven to be effective so far, as it converted one of many threatening moments into a goal and stifled Barcelona’s potent attack. Real Madrid has troubled Barcelona with its speed up front, making it easier to defend in numbers while remaining dangerous. Bale, Isco and di Maria in particular have impressed with both their attacking quality and defensive honesty. The trio allowed Real Madrid to strike a comfortable balance between attack and defense.
Barcelona has dominated possession and territory but only created one or two genuine scoring chances. Head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino must figure out a way to stop Real Madrid’s counter attacks, as Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta aren’t providing enough resistance in the midfield and Barcelona’s defenders are slower than Madrid’s attackers.
Going forward, Barcelona must use its width, as Real Madrid is content to defend deep inside its own third of the field. It works if Barcelona attacks through the middle, but could be dangerous if its opponent works the flanks.
FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 16, 2014
42nd minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Messi, who has been relatively quiet so far, comes close with a left footed shot from 15 yards out. Casillas dove to his left, but it was well off target.
34th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Despite trailing, Barcelona remains in control of proceedings, but Real Madrid may be comfortable with that.
Real Madrid seems content to cede both control and territory, Carlo Ancelotti’s team stays compact and hounds Barcelona players only when they approach its penalty area.
However, Bale, Benzema, Isco and di Maria can break forward with frightening speed, as they did on di Maria’s goal.
23rd minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Alba heads his shot on goal from close range, but it goes straight to Casillas.
Barcelona is looking increasingly confident in possession, but Real Madrid remains dangerous on the counter-attack.
20th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Fabregas advances deep into Real Madrid’s penalty area before crossing to Neymar at the far post, but the Brazilian couldn’t reach Fabregas’ pass.
16th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: There’s a bit of pushing and shoving between Neymar and a pair of Real Madrid defenders.
Neymar and Coentrao were entangled on the edge of Real Madrid’s penalty area. Neymar appeared to headbutt Coentra (slightly), and Pepe stepped into the fray and pushed the Barelona forward away.
The referee cautioned both Pepe and Neymar.
10th minute, 1-0 Real Madrid: Real Madrid catches Barcelona on the counter-attack and takes the lead early on.
Isco, Bale and Benzema exchanged passes in Barcelona’s half before the latter released di Maria on the break.
Di Maria received the pass and shot from inside Barcelona’s penalty area. His effort went between Alba’s legs and beat Pinto at the far post.
Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) April 16, 2014
Seventh minute, 0-0: With Ronaldo out, Bale carries a greater burden for scoring Real Madrid’s goals.
The Welshman has taken Real Madrid’s first two shots, putting both wide (but close) to Pinto’s left.
Third minute, 0-0: The referee shows Isco an early yellow card for his rough foul on Neymar.
First minute, 0-0: The game is under way.
Pregame: The goalkeepers are in the spotlight.
Pinto, Victor Valdes’ longtime backup, steps into the fray for what is his biggest game of the season. Pinto assumed the role of Barcelona’s No. 1 after Valdes tore his ACL on March 26. However, Pinto is no stranger to this occasion. He has started Barcelona’s last three Copa del Rey finals, winning twice.
Casillas has played for Real Madrid in Champions League and Copa del Rey action, while Diego Lopez mans the goal in La Liga play. Casillas is looking to claim his second Copa del Rey winners’ medal.
3 p.m.: Here are the lineups:
Jose Manuel Pinto (13), goalkeeper
Dani Alves (22), right back
Marc Bartra (15), center back
Javier Mascherano (14), center back
Jordi Alba (18), left back
Sergio Busquets (16), midfielder
Xavi (6), midfielder
Andres Iniesta (8), midfielder
Cesc Fabregas (4), forward
Neymar (11), forward
Lionel Messi (10), forward
Oier Olazabal (25), goalkeeper
Carles Puyol (5), defender
Adriano (21), defender
Sergi Roberto (24), midfielder
Alex Song (17), midfielder
Pedro (7), forward
Alexis Sanchez (9), forward
Iker Casillas (1), goalkeeper
Fabio Coentrao (5), left back
Pepe (3), center back
Sergio Ramos (4), center back
Daniel Carvajal (15), right back
Xabi Alonso (14), midfielder
Luka Modric (19), midfielder
Isco (23), forward
Angel di Maria (22), forward
Gareth Bale (11), forward
Karim Benzema (9), striker
Diego Lopez (25), goalkeeper
Raphael Varane (2), defender
Nacho Fernandez (18), defender
Casemiro (16), midfielder
Asier Illarramendi (24), midfielder
Willian José (44), striker
Alvaro Morata (21), striker
12:30 p.m. ET: Barcelona and Real Madrid, Spanish soccer’s two superpowers, will contest another “Clasico” Wednesday — this time for the right to lift the Copa del Rey or King’s Cup.
The eyes of the soccer world turn to the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain, as the eternal rivals meet for the third time this season and 227th time in their history. Barcelona has beaten Real Madrid twice this season (in La Liga play), but the stakes are higher this time around.
The Copa del Rey is Barcelona’s best chance at winning a trophy in what has become a campaign marked by crisis and disappointment. While Real Madrid maintains it pursuit of La Liga and UEFA Champions League triumphs, it will be keen to win its 19th Spanish Cup and deny Barcelona from adding to its record 26.
“El Clasico” always features some of the game’s biggest stars, but absences will loom large Wednesday. Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA’s reigning player of the year, will miss his third straight game due to a hamstring injury. Barcelona’s defense could be in tatters, as Gerrard Pique, Marc Bartra and Carles Puyol are all doubtful. Real Madrid defenders Sergio Ramos and Marcelo are also doubtful.
However, Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is expected to play. The Argentine is the top goal scorer in “El Clasico” history.
Barcelona and Real Madrid las contested a Copa del Rey final in 2011. Ronaldo scored in extra time to give Madrid the victory at the Mestalla. This one could be as thrilling as that; even without the Portuguese superstar.
Wednesday’s game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Join us right here for all the action from the Mestalla.