A masterful tactical plan from Jose Mourinho, a brilliant performance by all of his players and another impotent attacking display from Barcelona have all come together to send Real Madrid to the final of the Copa del Rey. Los Merengues scored in three different ways to win 3-1 at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night, winning the tie, 4-2, on aggregate and producing arguably the most impressive result they've achieved against the Blaugrana during the Mourinho era.
Lionel Messi had a brilliant chance after just two minutes, but missed his opportunity to undo Real Madrid's gameplan before they got settled into the match. Pedro did brilliantly on the right wing to play him into space, but Barca's No. 10 couldn't get his shot on target from eight yards.
As Madrid settled into their defensive shape, attacking opportunities dissipated for the Blaugrana, and the visitors looked well in control of situations without the ball following the Messi miss. However, Barcelona put together a decent attack in the 12th minute, when Ronaldo fell asleep defensively and allowed Dani Alves too much space, eventually leading to a foul on Andres Iniesta on the edge of the box.
Unfortunately for them, that free kick went nowhere, and the ensuing Madrid counter attack led to their goal. A brilliant run down the flank from Ronaldo led to a one-on-one situation in the penalty area against Gerard Pique. The Barcelona defender was fooled by Ronaldo's stepovers and attempted a tackle just a hair late, catching Ronaldo and getting none of the ball. Ronaldo stepped up and sent Jose Manuel Pinto the wrong way before burying the penalty, putting his side ahead, 1-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate.
The game became a wide-open and frenetic affair late in the first half, with both teams pushing hard for a goal, while simultaneously looking confident in their back lines to cut out dangerous attacks. Alvaro Arbeloa and Carles Puyol picked up yellow cards in the dying minutes of the half as things got chippy, but neither team looked much like scoring, despite the open nature of the match. At the very end of the period, Jordi Alba took a slight shove in the back from Arbeloa and attempted to milk a second yellow for the Madrid right back out of the situation, to no avail.
Barcelona had the first big chance of the second half, when Diego Lopez was forced into a save on a long shot by Sergio Busquets in the 52nd minute and Fabregas missed on a follow-up attempt, but that would be the closest they would come to looking like they could win the tie. Just five minutes after failing to capitalize on that opportunity, they were destroyed by a Madrid counter that put the tie to bed.
Los Merengues turned defense into attack instantly in the 57th minute, when Sami Khedira played a long ball upfield following a blocked Barcelona shot. Angel Di Maria won the race to the ball, then made an incredible dribbling move to cause Puyol to fall down. Pinto saved his shot, but Cristiano Ronaldo was unmarked on the follow-up, and had all the time he wanted to settle the ball and finish comfortably.
If that goal didn't end the match, the one Raphael Varane scored 11 minutes later certainly did. With Barcelona pressing forward even harder than normal, they were left susceptible to counter attacks, and Madrid won a corner on a surge forward. Mesut Özil took and found the head of Varane, who rose up above everyone and powered an absolutely spectacular header into the net, scoring his second goal in as many matches against the Blaugrana.
Barcelona attempted to claw their way back into the game with an array of attacking substitutions, but with Madrid three goals ahead and with an advantage on away goals, their incentive to take risks in attack was gone. Even so, Mourinho's men continued to look dangerous on the counter for the rest of the match. They switched off late, allowing Jordi Alba to net a consolation goal for the Blaugrana in the 89th minute.
There is another Clasico looming at the weekend, but it matters very little compared to this game. With Barcelona already having virtually wrapped up the La Liga crown, this was the biggest match of Madrid's season to date. They've salvaged an otherwise lackluster season with this victory, and will be favorites to win the Copa del Rey final, even if their local rivals Atletico Madrid, who are currently above them in the league, are the other finalists.