Real Madrid, Barcelona reach Copa del Rey quarterfinals

Sports Desk, Jan 19 (EFE).- Real Madrid had to come from behind Thursday to nip Villarreal 3-2 and advance to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, while Barcelona booked their spot in the last eight with a 5-0 demolition of third-tier Ceuta.

Villarreal, currently fifth in LaLiga, had a brilliant first half against the defending champions.

The hosts took the lead in the 4th minute courtesy of Etienne Capoue, who surprised Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a powerful shot from a difficult angle.

Fede Valverde, who fired over the cross-bar in the 10th minute foiled an attempt by Villarreal’s Alex Baena at the half-hour mark.

But the Yellow Submarine doubled their advantage in the 42nd minute with a goal off the counter. Gerard Moreno filtered a ball through three Blancos players to Samu Chukwueze, who beat Courtois.

And the Belgian international had to be sharp to prevent Yeremy Pino from making it 3-0 in the dying seconds of the first half.

The visitors looked better to start the second half and the comeback got under way in the 57th minute with a goal from Vinicius Jr., assisted by Dani Ceballos, making an impact just seconds after replacing Toni Kroos.

Eder Militao got the equalizer 12 minutes later, knocking in the rebound after Villarreal keeper Filip Jorgensen made the initial stop against Karim Benzema.

The possibility of extra-time loomed until the 86th minute, when Ceballos scored from the edge of the box to punch the Blancos’ ticket for the next round.

Earlier Thursday in Ceuta, the modest home side faced a Barcelona squad still celebrating their victory over archrivals Real Madrid in last weekend’s Spanish Super Cup final, the first trophy since Blaugrana legend Xavi Hernandez took charge as coach in 2021.

AD Ceuta managed to keep Barcelona at bay until the 41st minute, when Raphinha scored with a blast from 25 yards and the hosts could take satisfaction from reaching the break trailing only by one goal.

The second goal came just five minutes into the second half, as Robert Lewandowski found the net with an assist from Franck Kessie, who narrowly missed the target himself a few minutes later.

Sub Ansu Fati stretched the lead to 3-0 in the 70th minute and Kessie finally got his goal in the 77th before Lewandowski completed the brace in the final minute of regulation. EFE plm-rp/dr

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