Once again, Real Madrid started strong in El Clasico, but Barcelona eventually picked them apart. It was the same old story in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday night, with Cristiano Ronaldo getting on the scoreboard early, but the Blaugranas dominating the second half to take a 2-1 victory to the Camp Nou. Los Merengues will need a miracle in the second leg next Wednesday, where they will need to win by two goals or score three times in a one-goal win.
Ronaldo's goal came in the 11th minute on a brilliant run, but some poor goalkeeping. Karim Benzema released him into space with a through ball and he took off with the ball, surging towards goal. Gerard Pique forced him into a left-footed shot at a bad angle, but Jose Manuel Pinto allowed Ronaldo's shot to go through his legs, giving Madrid a 1-0 lead.
Barcelona looked like the superior side in the latter part of the first half and continued their dominance to start the second half. It only took them four minutes to find an equalizer, and they found it in unlikely fashion on a corner kick. Xavi delivered a great in-swinger that looked like it would find the head of Pique at the near post, but he missed and the ball continued on. Carles Puyol anticipated the ball getting through and lost Pepe before hitting a diving header into the back of the net, tying the score at 1-1.
The game featured a bit of controversy in the 69th minute, when Pepe appeared to step on the hand of Lionel Messi while he was on the ground. The referee completely missed the incident and it devolved into a large scuffle that wasn't quite a fight. The Spanish FA will likely review the incident, and it would not be surprising to see Pepe suspended for the second leg.
Eric Abidal was the unlikely scorer of the winning goal, and it was a brilliant one. Messi, who was having a very average game up until this point, provided an absolutely stunning assist with a chip into the box for Abidal to run onto. Like a center forward, Abidal controlled the ball brilliantly with his chest and pushed it into the back of the net with his second touch, giving the Blaugranas a massive advantage heading to the Camp Nou.
For more on the two teams, check out Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid and FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes. For all of the previous in-came coverage, check out our Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, 2012 El Clasico StoryStream.