A resilient Barcelona upset Real Madrid and won 1-0 over their bitter rivals in a tense first semifinal match of the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
The visitors defended magnificently after Real Madrid central defender Eder Militao scored in the first half, managing to overcome the loss of key players such as Robert Lewandowski, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele, who missed the game due to injuries.
Barça picked up a much-needed victory after arriving in the Spanish capital under pressure, dropping out of the Europa League and losing to Almería, which snapped a seven-match winning streak in La Liga.
We would have liked to have more possession, more control of the game, but we fought hard and competed at a high level. They possessed the ball but didn’t create many chances. We got the advantage for the second match, and that’s very important, Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets told TVE.
Real Madrid started better and dominated the first 15 minutes, but Barcelona started to turn things around as they took control of the midfield and their defensive game plan worked brilliantly.
Barça’s central defender Ronald Araujo did a great job at right-back to neutralize the threat of the dangerous Vinicius Jr. while Karim Benzema was left alone up front.
Real frustrated and erupted before the hosts made a decisive mistake that earned Barça the win.
Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camaviga passed back to Ferran Torres, who quickly reacted and crossed the ball to Frank Kessy.
His point-blank shot was saved, but the ball bounced off Militao and into the net.
The assistant referee indicated offside, but a VAR replay showed that Kessey was offside and the goal was allowed.
In the second half, Barcelona put Real Madrid in an even more difficult situation, and although the hosts dominated possession, they rarely threatened to equalize.
Real Madrid did not take a single shot on goal despite nearly 70% possession in the second half, and Barça should have increased their lead in the 71st minute when Kessi’s shot, deflected by the goalkeeper, was blocked by Ansu Fati.
Substitute Rodrigo had Real Madrid’s best chance, landing a late long-range shot that went just off the post.
The teams will meet again in Barcelona on April 5, with the winner facing either Athletic Bilbao or Osasunoops.
No one was injured in the early morning attack, and it was unclear why the attackers targeted Messi or the Unico supermarket in Rosario, the third largest city in the country, owned by his wife Antonella Roccuzzo’s family.
The mayor of the city, Pablo Havkin, went to the supermarket and lashed out at federal authorities for what he said was their failure to curb a spike in drug-related violence in Rosario, located about 190 miles (300 km) northwest of the capital, Buenos Aires.
Police reported that two men on a motorcycle fired at least a dozen shots at the Unico branch in the early morning hours, leaving a message on a cardboard board: Messi, we are waiting for you. Yavkin is also a drug dealer, so he won’t take care of you.
Messi made no comment. Messi is considered the greatest soccer player of all time and is revered in Argentina, especially after he led the national team to its first World Cup victory in 36 years in Qatar in December.
Messi currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain and spends most of his time abroad, although he often visits Rosario, where he has a home in the suburb of Funes. The French team posted a photo on social media of Messi training Thursday morning.
In Rosario, prosecutor Federico Rebola said authorities are reviewing surveillance footage and that the investigation is preliminary. He added that this is the first time Messi’s relatives have received such a threat.
Celia Arena, minister of justice of the province of Santa Fe, where Rosario is located, said the attack amounted to terrorism by a mafia group designed to intimidate the general population.
The purpose is to deliberately cause terror among the population and discourage those of us who are fighting against criminal violence, knowing that it will be an event of world importance, Arena wrote on social media.
Yavkin, a center-left politician who is in opposition to the ruling Peronist coalition, seems to have cast suspicion of involvement in the attack on both criminal gangs and federal security personnel.
I doubt everyone, even those who are supposed to protect us, Yavkin told a local radio station.
He said he has had very serious conversations in the last couple of weeks with federal security officials who have demanded thats they suppressed crime in the city.
Where are the people who are supposed to take care of us? It’s clear that those who have guns and the ability to investigate crimes don’t do that, and it’s very easy for any gang to do something like that.
Federal Security Minister Anibal Fernandez said that drug-related violence is not a recent phenomenon in the city, and that Thursday’s attack was typical of what has been going on here for the past 20 years.
He said the incident is an example of how drug dealers have won in Rosario, but now we have to reverse that.
Opposition politicians blamed President Alberto Fernandez’s administration for the ongoing violence in Rosario. His predecessor, Mauricio Macri, described what happened as a warning that the country cannot coexist with drug traffickers.
Messi, 35, is currently renegotiating his contract with Paris Saint-Germain, which ends this year, amid speculation that the soccer superstar may decide to end his career playing for one of Rosario’s local clubs, Newells.
Messi, who won the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award this week, could travel to Argentina later this month to play two friendly matches with the national team. One will be against Panama in Buenos Aires on March 23, and the other five days later against Curacao in the northern city of Santiago del Estero.