Barcelona Fall to Extra Time Goal in Copa del Rey

April 21, 2011

FC Barcelona had to settle for runners up medals on Wednesday as they were edged out of the Copa del Rey final by a Cristiano Ronaldo goal in extra time. Facing off against a determined and well-drilled Real Madrid team, Barça only produced flashes of the kind of football that has dazzled La Liga this season.

Pep Guardiola was able to pick a strong side for the decisive match at the Mestalla – Mascherano stepped in at a centre-back to replace the injured Carles Puyol, and Pinto took his customary place between the posts for the cup.

Picking up from Saturday’s league meeting, the first half got off to a frenetic and tetchy start, with a host of fouls and angry recriminations. And although Barcelona were monopolising possession, Los Blancos were pressing higher up the pitch than before – when they won the ball they attacked with real speed and intent.

Cristiano Ronaldo was set free down the inside right channel and drew a smart save from Pinto after 11 minutes. Barcelona, on the other hand, were struggling to find a way through, and the game soon descended into a turgid stalemate punctuated by niggling fouls.

It was a scenario that suited Mourinho’s team perfectly, and just before half time they mustered another opportunity; Mesut Özil found some space down the right flank and whipped in a teasing cross that Pepe powered onto the inside of Pinto’s right post. Fortunately the ball bounced across the face of goal and out to safety.

Barcelona needed to improve in the second half, and the Blaugrana fans got their wish with a far more fluent performance, forcing Real Madrid to the edge of their penalty with some smart combinations.

Messi went on a spellbinding run, evading four Real Madrid challenges before releasing Pedro who shot low past Casillas, only to see the goal chalked off by the offside flag. Barcelona upped the pace even further – Messi, Pedro and Iniesta all drew stunning reaction saves from the Madrid ‘keeper.

And then, after forcing the opposition onto the ropes, Barcelona slowly started to lose the upper hand. In the closing minutes of regulation time, Real Madrid began to find their feet once more, bringing Pinto into action, who had to tip a Di Maria shot over the bar moments after an Alves block denied Cristiano Ronaldo a scoring opportunity.

Extra time ensued, and Los Merengues started to look increasingly menacing on the break, before breaking the deadlock in the 102nd minute. Di Maria led a counter attack down the left flank, and his cross was met with a powerful header by Ronaldo to leave Pinto stranded. FC Barcelona then tried to raise the tempo, but just didn’t have the legs to drag themselves back into the match.

The result is a bitter blow, but more exciting challenges lie ahead, as Guardiola’s team returns to the Ciutat Esportiva to regroup ahead of the Champions League semi-final.

0-1 C.Ronaldo (102′)

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