Barcelona top Real Madrid 1-0 in 1st leg of Copa semifinal

Madrid, Mar 2 (EFE).- FC Barcelona contained the powerful Real Madrid attack and benefited from a lucky bounce to beat their archrivals 1-0 here Thursday in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal.

Coming off a stunning loss to 15th-place Almeria, the current LaLiga leaders held the defending champions to zero shots on target.

Aside from a goal by 2022 Ballon d’Or Karim Benzema that was called back for offside, the Blancos struggled to translate their dominance of possession – 65 percent – into scoring chances in front of 63,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The hosts failed to put a single shot on target against a Blaugrana side that made a virtue of necessity by embracing defense in a contest where they were without top scorer Robert Lewandowski, playmaker Pedri and striker Ousmane Dembele, all injured.

Real Madrid started vigorously and Luka Modric was poised to open the scoring in the first minute, but instead put the ball in the side-netting.

Tight marking by Ronald Araujo limited the effectiveness of Vinicius Jr., who has emerged as the most dynamic element of the Blancos’ attack amid Benzema’s absences due to injury.

A giveaway by Frenkie de Jong allowed Vini to find Benzema with a cross in the 12th minute and the French international beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the flag went up and replays confirmed that the striker was offside.

Struggling to get past midfield, Barcelona finally made it into the offensive zone in the 25th minute and a blunder by Eduardo Camavinga left Franck Kessie all alone with the ball in front of goal.

Though Thibaut Courtois made the save, the rebound caromed off Real Madrid defender Eder Militao and into the net.

Initially ruled out for offside, the goal was awarded after a VAR review determined that the Barcelona player in an offside position, Raphinha, had no effect on the play.

With four minutes left in the first half, a great ball from Toni Kroos reached Dani Carvajal 10 yards from goal, only for the Blancos defender to fire it into the stands.

Araujo deflected a dangerous looking strike from Vinicius in the 49th minute, while Barcelona’s Ansu Fati got in the way of a goal-bound shot from teammate Kessie in the 74th.

Rodrygo narrowly missed on an chance for the equalizer in the 89th minute and Militao’s overhead effort deep in stoppage time resulted only in a corner that came to naught.

Barcelona will host the second leg on April 5. EFE rmm/dr

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