10:27 PM GMT
Alex KirklandESPN FC
MADRID -- An Eder Militao own-goal gave Barcelona a constrictive 1-0 Clasico triumph over Real Madrid successful their Copa del Rey semifinal archetypal limb astatine the Santiago Bernabeu connected Thursday.
Karim Benzema had a extremity ruled retired -- straying offside to person Vinicius Junior's transverse -- earlier Barca took the pb successful the 26th minute. Midfielder Franck Kessie was played successful by Ferran Torres, and erstwhile his changeable was saved by Thibaut Courtois, the shot rebounded disconnected defender Militao and into the net.
Dani Carvajal wasted a large accidental to level earlier half-time, volleying implicit the bar, and Vinicius saw an effort deflected wide aft the break, portion Barca were aboriginal unlucky not to adhd a 2nd erstwhile substitute Ansu Fati blocked Kessie's goal-bound shot.
1. First-leg triumph keeps Barca's treble hopes connected track
This Clasico -- the archetypal of 3 successful 34 days, with the teams acceptable to conscionable successful LaLiga connected March 19 earlier the Copa instrumentality limb astatine Camp Nou connected April 5 -- was a accidental for league leaders Barcelona to summation their prospects of a home double, and for Real Madrid to spark their ain content successful a melodramatic late-season turnaround. A 1-0 triumph for Barca is the narrowest of leads, but it puts them successful the driver's spot to scope the last -- particularly fixed that they volition play the 2nd limb astatine location -- and denies Madrid the anticipation to physique immoderate momentum arsenic they look to overturn not lone this semifinal deficit, but besides the seven-point spread they request to adjacent connected Barca astatine the apical of the LaLiga table.
Recent Clasicos person been noted for their unpredictability and broad wins for some sides, which haven't ever reflected the bigger picture. Xavi's Barca won 4-0 astatine the Bernabeu past play arsenic Madrid marched connected to the league title, earlier Madrid secured a broad 3-1 triumph present successful October, and Barca took the Spanish Supercopa by the aforesaid scoreline successful January.
This was a overmuch tighter, nervier crippled of fewer wide chances, arsenic Madrid's dominance of possession came up against Barcelona's antiaircraft solidity. With Robert Lewandowski, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele each absent, Barca's triumph -- nevertheless it was achieved -- is different morale boost for them, and an accidental missed for Madrid.
2. Araujo stars successful Barca's rock-solid defence
Ronald Araujo mightiness conscionable beryllium the champion defender successful Spain this season, and this show was yet much impervious that erstwhile the Uruguay planetary starts for Barca -- whether astatine centre-back oregon astatine right-back, wherever helium played connected Thursday -- there's a bully accidental they'll travel retired connected top.
Araujo went toe-to-toe with 1 of the astir terrifying wide forwards anyplace successful Vinicius -- a nightmare task for adjacent the astir mobile of defenders -- and did an exceptional occupation of keeping him quiet, adjacent looking to relish the contest. He often stepped wrong to assistance retired centre-backs Jules Kounde and Marcos Alonso alongside him, and adjacent managed to get forward, driving upfield successful the 2nd half.
Barca's miserly backline, led by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen successful career-best form, has been cardinal to their home occurrence truthful acold this season. With Araujo successful the side, that looks improbable to alteration anytime soon.
3. A Madrid broadside abbreviated of cutting edge
In Spain, they speech astir pegada: a team's attacking firepower, its quality to present a knockout punch. For each of Real Madrid's dominance of galore aspects of the crippled present -- they had 65% possession, 885 touches to Barca's 598, and 13 shots -- they seldom felt similar troubling Ter Stegen's goal. None of those shots were connected target. An xG of 0.73 tells a much close story.
Vinicius was their astir unsafe menace but was good marshalled by Araujo, portion Benzema was quiescent aft his disallowed goal, and Rodrygo and youngster Alvaro Rodriguez offered small aft coming connected arsenic second-half substitutes. Too often they were frustrated by a well-organised Barcelona squad who looked astir blessed to concede possession and pounce connected the counterattack.
The Copa del Rey isn't Real Madrid's precedence successful this oregon immoderate play -- that's ever the Champions League, followed by LaLiga -- and a semifinal elimination wouldn't beryllium the extremity of the world, but a triumph present would person been a useful reminder that the home play isn't implicit yet. As it is, Madrid indispensable look to chopped the spread successful the league and unafraid their spot successful the Champions League quarterfinals, earlier trying to crook this necktie astir astatine Camp Nou successful a month's time.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Ronald Araujo, Barcelona. The statement prime for antheral of the match. Dominated the crippled from right-back.
BEST: Franck Kessie, Barcelona. Made the lone extremity of the game, and had 1 of his champion nights successful a Barca garment truthful far.
BEST: Frenkie de Jong, Barcelona. Increasingly influential successful midfield.
WORST: Eduardo Camavinga, Real Madrid. Did good until helium gave the shot distant successful a unsafe presumption to let Barca to score.
WORST: Ansu Fati, Barcelona. Got successful the mode of Kessie's goalbound shot, which could person finished the tie.
WORST: Karim Benzema, Real Madrid. Another quiescent nighttime successful an inconsistent season.
Highlights and notable moments
It wasn't pretty, but it counts conscionable the same.
FRANK KESSIE OPENS THE SCORING FOR BARCELONA! 😮 pic.twitter.com/sdDyDtXg0J— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 2, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
Sergio Busquets: "The triumph is important but we inactive person the instrumentality leg. We mustn't get carried away. We competed good and we worked arsenic a squad erstwhile we didn't person the ball, but contempt not having the shot overmuch successful their half, we didn't endure excessively much. The important happening is the result, which gives america a accidental to get to the final. ... We mightiness person a minimal vantage with the result, but it isn't definitive."
Courtois: "We dominated the game. They were rather defensive. We were unlucky to concede the goal. It was hard for america to get shots connected goal, and to make chances. We played a bully game, successful control, but we didn't find the chance. ... They defended well, they concede fewer goals. We didn't get the last ball. They defended well. ... It won't alteration oregon impact the instrumentality leg, oregon the league."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
- ESPN Stats & Information has entree to 685 competitory games played by Barcelona successful the past 15 seasons. This is the archetypal crippled successful which they had little than 40% possession.
- After scoring successful their archetypal 29 games this play crossed each competitions, Madrid person been unopen retired for the 3rd clip successful their past 10 games, 2 of which person been astatine home.
Real Madrid: Los Blancos instrumentality to the league connected Sunday, erstwhile they caput to Andalusia to instrumentality connected Real Betis astatine the Estadio Benito Villamarin (3 p.m. ET, stream unrecorded connected ESPN+).