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Jan 26, 2012

FC Barcelona secured a semi-final birth in this season's Copa Del Rey after knocking out holders Real Madrid with a sensational 2-2 draw. Barcelona who went into the break with a 2-0 lead had to hold off a sensational fightback from Mourinho's boys to secure the semi-final birth. To an extent we had to say that we were lucky after putting up the worst defensive display of the season, and courtesy of the fact that Madrid missed a number of chances. Mourinho's boys were all in crisis coming into this match. But as I said in the preview they came out like a roaring, but they were a bit hasty in front of goal and that resulted in all those missing chances. Guardiola went with an unchanged side which featured in the 2-1 away victory at Santiago Bernebeu. Pinto, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Cesc, Messi and Sanchez all started as expected. As I wrote in in the preview, Pepe started for Mourinho at centre back partnering Ramos, Arbeloa and Coentrao in defense. The midfield had Diarra, Alonso and Kaka. Ozil, Higuain and Ronaldo formed the attacking trio.

The start was horrible with Alves giving a bad back pass, Pique stood their ball watching and suddenly Higuain was through on goal; luckily for us he shot wide. In the 3rd minute Pinto produced a brilliant save to deny another Higuain header. It was a point blank range save. Real Madrid were off from the start and pressurising us like hell. Then in the 6th minute Ronaldo flashed a shot wide from a very tight angle. In the Messi went in a brilliant run through the middle and was brought down outside the box winning a free kick. Suprisingly Alves took the free kick and slammed it on the wall. In the 10th minute Fabregas sent in a great ball spotting Sanchez run, but he was a bit unlucky not to control it. In the 11th minute Real Madrid sets on a greater counter but Pinto made a brilliant save off Ronaldo. In the 14th minute Cesc wins the ball in midfield and sets off in a brilliant counter but his square to Messi was a little behind. For Real Madrid Ozil and Kaka were dominating the midfield. In the 25th minute Mesut Ozil struck the woodwork from long range and we were lucky not to have conceded there. In the 28th minute Pinto gave away the ball to Higuain but once again he was able to make the save. Then to make matters worse Iniesta got injured in the 30th minute and had to be replaced by Pedro. In the 35th minute Xavi curled a ball to Sanchez in the box, Pepe somehow clear it. Then in the 43rd minute Pedro scored from a brilliant counter atatck. Alves robbed the ball off Ronaldo in Barcelona half and found Messi in centre, who sets in a brilliant run drawing every defender on him and lifted the ball to Pedro on the left who make no mistake. In the injury time of half time Lassan Diarra took down Messi at the edge of the box, that should have been a second yellow card; but as expected to the referee decided not to. From the resulting free kick Alves scored with a brilliant strike after Xavi's free kick rebounded off the wall. That was an almighty strike. Real Madri would have been cursing their stars as they had 4 clear cut chance to score. Till the time the goal came we had only some serious half chances. But we turned the screw after that with Messi running riot and Madrid was lucky not to be reduced to 10 men.

Real Madrid defense were having handsfull with Messi's running. In the 50th minute Messi was brought down just outside of the box by Ramos. Xavi's free kick went just high of the right corner. Mourinho brought in Granero for Diarra in the 52nd minute to make it a complete attacking formation. In the 53rd minute Ramos headed past Pinto but the goal was correctly ruled out for a foul on Alves by Ramos. In the 60th minute Mourinho brought in Benzema for Higuain, who missed three golden chances in the first half. And also brought in Callejon for Kaka. In the 68th minute Ronaldo pulled one back after Ozil put him through. That goal put the tie back to akind of tense final minutes. In the 70th minute Fabregas was taken off and Thiago came in. Then in the 72nd minute Real madrid equalised through Benzema after launching a counter after we gave the ball away unnecessarily. We were absolutely getting killed in the midfield. In the 75th minute Ronaldo had another brilliant chabce but could not make the connection. In the 78th minute Benzema was put through with a great ball from Coentrao catching Puyol off, but his touch desert him and Pinto was able to connect. In the 82nd minute Messi won a free kick after he was brought down by Caoentrao, but Messi's free kick went just high. In the 84th minute Messi shoots just wide of near post. In the 85th minute Pedro gets past Pepe on the left and square the ball to Mesi in the box, but Ramos stepped in just in time to intercept it. In the 86th minute Ronaldo headed wide from a corner. In the 88th minute Ramos got red carded after he received a yellow card for a elbow on Busquets. I thought that was a bit harsh. In the 91st minute Pedro headed a free header straight at Casillas.

Ok, it is not that easy to look back into this match as the last quarter of the match was teh most tense. The possession statistics of the match said Barca had 60% and Madrid 40%. And that was the key in this match. They were really playing from their heart. They had the chance to score atleast three goals in the first half but wasy wayward with their finishing. We then thought we oput the game past them scoring two goals. But after the break we just simply switched off. There was no attempt to maintain the passing football or holding teh formation. The defense were all over the place. the way we conceded two goals in span of four minutes said it all. the defense were all over the place. Guardiola did teh right thing by bringing on Mascherano immediately. He and Thiago was instrumental in holding Real Madrid back. If it wasn't for Lionel Messi we would have been out of this tie. Everything good for us happened through him. The rest of the team played really poor. It was like they never expected Real Madrid to come out like that, after what they have gone through this week. In the defense everyone was poor including Abidal and Puyol. Pique was the worst, his mistake in the opening minute could have killed us. There were some doubts over Pinto's performance from last weeek. But he could hold his head high with a performance where he saved atleast four chances. Busquets who usually used to be calm when the midfield gets crowded was seriously struggling to push off the pressure.

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