Malcom gives Valverde food for thought, but Real Madrid earn 1-1 draw in Copa Del Rey


Barcelona and Real Madrid played out a 1-1 draw in an evenly contested El Clasico. The usual drama and premium quality was perhaps lacking, but the future of both sides was evident.

Malcom equalised after Lucas Vazquez had given Los Blancos an early lead. Barcelona’s Brazilian winger proving the brightest light in an otherwise subdued performance from the Catalan club. Vinicius Junior in the white of Madrid offered the spark for Santiago Solari, alongside the inform Karim Benzema, whose work rate throughout the match was admirable.

Neither side were at their fluent best, but the tie was left finely poised for the return leg at the Bernabeu.

Benzema continued his fine form of recent weeks to lay an assist on for Lucas Vazquez to open the scoring with just 6 minutes gone, the Frenchman has recently garnered praise for his performances. Even posing the question, is he one of the best number 9’s to grace La Liga?

Sergio Ramos found himself in the book just 10 minutes into the game, a lunge on Malcom resulted in a harsh caution, with very little contact evident. Vinicius Junior was causing the Barcelona right back Nelson Semedo all kinds of problems, his pace and direct approach giving him a lot of joy on the left hand side. But the 18-year-old often lacked the final ball, the decision making on show was evident of someone at the very early stages of their career.

Malcom offered Barcelona pace at the other end, often trying to replicate that of Vinicius, attacking his man directly, but failed to penetrate the Real Madrid backline with any quality.

The opening 25 minutes went by without lacking the intensity or pace normally associated with such a high profile game. Gerard Pique came close with a header before Rakitic rattled the crossbar with a headed effort of his own. Vinicius then countered with a rapid break, but played the ball just a yard too far infront of Benzema, and Barcelona were off the hook once more.

Barcelona winger Malcom continued to grow in confidence, the Brazilian danced through the challenges of several Real Madrid defenders before laying off Luis Suarez, who tested Keylor Navas with a curling effort into the corner. Equally Vinicious seemed to torment Semedo, forcing the fullback into shoving the winger to the floor and earn himself a yellow card.

Phillipe Coutinho, who failed to impose himself in the first half, tried one of his trademark curling efforts into the top corner, but his accuracy failed him and the ball flew high and wide of the goal. Malcom soon had Barcelona on level terms, a fantastic run by Jordi Alba saw him clattered by Navas, Coutinho struck the loose ball against the post but it fell nicely to Malcom who stroked it into the back of the net.

It was at this point Lionel Messi was introduced, in place of the struggling Coutinho. Arturo Vidal replaced Ivan Rakitic whilst Real Madrid called time on Marcos Llorente’s time, with Casemiro taking his place. Gareth Bale also entered the fray, with the impressive Vinicius Junior making way.

Messi made an immediate impact, robbing Casemiro and charging towards the goal, but was hauled down in Messi territory for a free kick, but failed to test Navas. Gareth Bale wasted a glorious opportunity to put his side infront, with the goalkeeper out of his goal, Bale tried to shift the ball onto his right and tap into the net, but a late challenge by Semedo sent the ball out for a corner.

Madrid continued to press, Varane headed wide from a Toni Kroos free kick and Bale failed to deliver a ball of any quality to Benzema when he found himself in behind the Barcelona defence.

Chances in the final few minutes were at a premium, the fact both sides kept 11 men on the pitch may have been a suprise to most. Real Madrid using their physicality in an attempt to stop Barcelona’s metronome, Arthur Melo, from keeping any form of rhythm. But the sides meet again in Madrid to decide who progresses to the final of the Copa Del Rey. Solari, you feel, leaves Barcelona the happier man tonight.


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