Europe: Real have advantage; Ipswich shock Arsenal; Cups Review
In yet another week of cup ties in some of Europe’s biggest domestic knockout competitions the biggest highlight came at the end of the week with local rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid battling it out in the Copa del Rey. Other prominent ties were played in England, Scotland, Italy, Portugal, Turkey and Greece and there were a couple of shocks along the way. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the best of the action.
The first legs in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals were completed on Thursday with wins for Real Madrid and Almeria. In the Madrid derby Atleti took the lead through Diego Forlan after just seven minutes but los Blancos restored parity within five minutes with a Sergio Ramos header. Further goals in the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Özil give Real a 3-1 advantage to take into next week’s second leg. In the other tie Almeria have a slender 1-0 advantage to take to Galicia after an own goal from Deportivo’s Knut Olav Rindaröy proved decisive.
In the other two games played 24 hours earlier there were a remarkable eleven goals scored as record holders FC Barcelona put five past Real Betis whilst Villarreal and Sevilla shared six goals between them in an eventful 3-3 draw. Lionel Messi collected his FIFA Ballon D’or award before the game against second division Betis began and he ended the game with a hat-trick in another vintage performance. Pedro and Seydou Keita completed the scoring as FC Barcelona comfortably won 5-0 to virtually seal their place in the semi-finals. Defending title holders Sevilla FC were 3-1 down away to Villarreal CF before clawing their way back to a 3-3 draw. Alexis got the equalizing goal two minutes from full-time to set up what will be a fascinating return leg.
The big shock in England’s League Cup semi-final, 1st legs was the defeat of Arsenal by second tier Ipswich Town. Tamas Priskin scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for the Trotters as they got themselves back on track in front of new coach Paul Jewell just three days after they were humiliated by Chelsea FC who scored eight goals past Ipswich in the FA Cup. The other semi-final tie sees West Ham United take a 2-1 advantage back to Birmingham City when the second legs take place from January 25-26.
North of the border Heart of Midlothian were the big casualties in the Scottish Cup 4th round as they were eliminated on home turf by fellow SPL side St Johnstone on Tuesday. Glasgow Rangers sealed their progression on Monday defeating Kilmarnock FC 3-0 in front of a sparsely populated Ibrox Park and set up a mouth watering tie against Old Firm rivals Celtic FC in the fifth round to be played on February 5-6.
Samuel Eto’o bagged a brace for Coppa Italia holders Internazionale FC as they went through to the quarter-finals courtesy of a 3-2 win against Genoa in the San Siro on Wednesday night. They join Parma FC (who defeated AFC Fiorentina before Christmas), Palermo (1-0 winners over Chievo on Wednesday) and Juventus (2-0 winners over Catania on Thursday) whilst the four remaining Round of 16 ties take place next week with the highlight being the Rome derby between AS Roma and SS Lazio on Wednesday.
In Portugal FC Porto have already secured qualification to the semi-final as they beat finally managed to defeat third tier Pinhalnovense on Wednesday thanks to two late goals from Hulk giving them a 2-0 win. In the Round of 16 record champions Benfica easily saw off Olhanense with a 5-0 win, Vitória Guimarães won 2-0 at home to União Torreense whilst Académica Coimbra and third-tier Merelinense also sealed a place in the last eight with wins over União da Madeira and SC Varzim respectively.
The Türkiye Kupasi is in the middle of its league stage and there were wins for cup holders Trabzonspor (3-1 over Şekerspor) and Beşiktaş (3-2 v Manisaspor) in Group B which helped those clubs into the top two places in the five team group. Galatasaray have all but sealed their place in the next round already having defeated Şekerspor Ankara 3-1 on Wednesday to give them a share of the lead with Gaziantepspor on seven points from three games, six ahead of third place Şekerspor Ankara who have only played two games. Fenerbahçe are out of the competition following a 2-1 defeat away at Yeni Malatyaspor. Two of the smaller clubs in Istanbul top Group D with Kasımpaşaspor sealing their second win in two games following a 1-0 win over Kirikhanspor whilst Istanbul BB also have six points having played a game more when defeating Karşıyakaspor Izmir 2-0 on Wednesday.
Finally in Greece there were two replayed Round of 16 matches on Wednesday with second tier Diagoros FC upsetting Super League club Ethnikos Asteras thanks to a solitary strike from Bartosz Tarachulski on the half-hour mark. In the all-Super League tie Kerkyra FC needed a penalty shoot-out to defeat Iraklis Thessaloniki following a goalless 120 minutes of football. Kerkyra FC were 100% from the spot whilst Iraklis’ Karim Soltani was the only player to miss for the visitors as Kerkyra won the shoot-out 5-3. The quarter-final, first legs will be played next week with two potentially explosive clashes including Olympiakos v PAOK Thessaloniki and defending holders Panathinaikos v AEK Athens. The other games see Kerkyra FC rewarded with a tiw against Olympiakos Volou whilst Diagoros FC have been paired with Atromitos.