Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid: Welsh wizard Bale wins the Copa del Rey
Real Madrid emerged victorious in the Clásico Copa del Rey final at the Mestalla, having taken the lead, overcame a fight back from Barcelona, then sealed the win with a superb finish from Gareth Bale.
All the hype and the build-up over, it was time for the game at the Mestalla. Still some afters from the last El Clásico on display, as the Catalan fans whistled at the Spanish national anthem, meanwhile, Casillas and Busquets didn’t shake hands.
The game began in typically hot-blooded fashion between the two arch-enemies, though Real Madrid were showing much of the early pressure and control of possession. When Barcelona finally did break forward, Neymar was caught by a hard tackle from Isco of all people, collecting a yellow card in just the third minute.
Real Madrid were showing the most threats though, with Bale coming close twice in a matter of minutes. Their play was looking the most effective and in the 10th minute, they had the lead. Barcelona lost the ball in midfield, Isco threaded it to Benzema, who played a lovely through ball for Di María to break the offside trap and chase, carry forward and fire at goal. Though Pinto got fingers to the ball, he couldn’t stop it flying into the back of the net.
Barcelona looked for a reaction, but it wasn’t coming as Dani Alves tried to fire balls forward, which the forwards weren’t reaching. Things began to heat up a little more between the two sides, with a number of minor exchanges, which resulted in Neymar and Pepe both having their names added to the referee’s book in the 16th minute
Di María looked for another goal in the 20th minute, but this time it was a comfortable save for Pinto. Barcelona then started to get their foot on the ball more, controlling play better and creating more danger of their own. Fàbregas with a killer ball that carved open the Real Madrid defence in the 21st minute, but Neymar was just unable to make the connection on the far post.
Casillas hadn’t really been tested so far, until the 23rd minute when a cross from the Barcelona right produced a header at the far post from Jordi Alba arriving well, but the Real Madrid keeper able to contain it.
Though Barcelona were now gaining more possession superiority, they weren’t finding any clear routes to goal, as they sought them around in the final third. Real Madrid were defending well and their trademark counters were also looking dangerous all the while. Xabi Alonso with the next opportunity in the 27th minute, but unable to hit the target in the 27th minute.
The pressure and possession from Barcelona continued to grow, but they lacked definition in their last pass, as both Messi and Iniesta failed to link with the final ball, after good moves. In the Real Madrid midfield, Modric was making a heroic effort, continually pressing opponents well and trying to ensure his opponents had to rush their passes.
Again though, it was Real Madrid who were looking sharper when they sprung forth on the counter. Bartra flung himself in the way of a good opportunity for Isco inside the area in the 36th minute, then Di María fired just wide after another good run from the Argentine flyer.
When Barcelona finally did manage to make one of their more dangerous openings in the 41st minute, it was Messi who was there to make the finishing touch, but he couldn’t test Casillas with his effort, putting the ball wide of the mark. Real Madrid finished the stronger in the final moments of the half though, as Di María once more gave the Barcelona defence problems, feeding the ball to Benzema, who really should have done better with the finish.
At the interval, it was Barcelona who were the first to make a change, as Adriano came on for Jordi Alba. The Catalan side began the half with the better possession once more, but sterile and quickly facing the threatening counters of Real Madrid once more. Bale with a good chance in the 48th minute, but wide of the target with his shot from the edge of the area.
A free-kick produced a good opportunity for Barcelona in the 50th minute, but though Messi got it over the Real Madrid wall, it was way over the crossbar too. Bale had another good shooting opportunity in the 54th minute, following a poor clearance from Busquets, but though the Welshman controlled the ball well on his chest, his volley was just over the crossbar.
As they had been in the first half, Barcelona looked to build down the right with Dani Alves, but though his intentions were good, still his forward balls weren’t reaching anyone in attack. They were having plenty of good possession, as would be expected, but simply failing to produce any real end product.
Looking for another change on the hour mark, Barcelona sent on Pedro for Fàbregas, who had made little impact on the game. Real Madrid promptly mounted another dangerous attack seconds later, lead by the inspired Di María, which culminated a shot from Benzema, deflected wide for a corner in the 62nd minute.
A frantic spell followed, with play swinging from one end to the other. Barcelona had arguably their best chance of the game thus far and it fell to a central defender, with Bartra forcing an excellent save from Casillas in the 64th minute. Real Madrid then attacked swiftly, Benzema driving a shot that was flying in, but Pinto producing a superb save to tip the ball onto the post. A moment later and from a corner, Real Madrid had the ball in the back of the net, but it was swiftly ruled out, after referee Mateu Lahoz spotted a foul on the the Barcelona keeper.
As play then headed up the other end, Barcelona managed to force a corner in the 68th minute. The ball swung into the area well, Bartra lost his marker Pepe, rose well and planted the header past Casillas, who got a touch, but couldn’t stop it going in. Game on with an equaliser that brought a huge cheer from their supporters.
Chances continued to come at both ends as the game headed into the final twenty minutes. Bale first for Real Madrid, but Pinto able to deal with it. Then in the 75th minute, Dani Alves forward well for Barcelona, but unable to get his effort on target.
Real Madrid were desperately unlucky not to restore their lead in the 80th minute, after Modric found space to crack off a shot, that only succeeded in striking the post and going wide. At the other end, Barcelona forced two quick corners, but the Real Madrid held tight with Pepe smashing the ball away as Neymar lurked dangerously, ready to pounce on a free ball inside the area.
Once more Real Madrid threatened and after Di María fired over from outside the area, the next chance that came, did find it’s mark in the 85th minute. Bale knocking the ball forward past Bartra from deep, then winning the race with the Barcelona defender, the Welshman faced down the one on one with Pinto, before finishing with aplomb. Now the Real Madrid fans were in full voice once again.
A flurry of changes then followed as Ancelotti made just his first substitution of the game, sending on Illarramendi for Di María in the 86th minute, who left the field to an ovation from the Real Madrid fans. At the same time, Martino sent on Alexis for Bartra, who left the field in some discomfort.
Real Madrid could have hammered the nail in the coffin in the 87th minute, with a great effort from Benzema, but well saved by Pinto. Then, another change from Ancelotti, as he swiftly sent on Casemiro for Isco, again looking for defensive focus in midfield.
The frantic pace of the game continued and Barcelona were desperately unlucky not to be on level terms in the 89th minute. Neymar put clean through on goal, shaping his shot well, but Casillas getting just enough contact to take it onto the post. The final Real Madrid change came as the game headed into stoppage time, with Varane replacing Benzema.
Real Madrid defended with their lives in the final moments of the encounter, but despite the strong pressure from Barcelona, throwing everything into attack, there would be no saviour at the death for the Catalan side.
Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
Stadium: Mestalla, Valencia
Referee: Mateu Lahoz
Barcelona XI: Pinto; Dani Alves, Bartra (86′), Mascherano, Jordi Alba (46′); Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Fàbregas (60′), Messi, Neymar.
Goals: Bartra (68′), Bale (85′)
Subs: Adriano (46′), Pedro (60′), Alexis (86′)
Yellow Cards: Neymar (16′), Mascherano (52′)
Real Madrid XI: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao; Modric, Xabi Alonso, Isco (88′); Di María (86′), Benzema (90′), Bale.
Goals: Di María (10′)
Subs: Illarramendi (86′), Casemiro (88′), Varane (90′)
Yellow Cards: Isco (3′), Pepe (16′)