Europe: Real Madrid and Barcelona seal final places in exciting cup week
The headlines over the last 24 hours have belonged mainly to the big two of Spanish football as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona marched on to the final of the Copa del Rey following victories against Sevilla FC and Almeria CF respectively. This means that the anticipation for Spanish football’s domestic knockout competition will reach fever pitch ahead of the clubs’ first meeting in a final of this tournament since 1990. But the Spanish Cup wasn’t the only knockout football going on in Europe this week as Stoppage Time reviews the latest from France, Portugal, Greece and Turkey.
The 2010-11 Copa Del Rey final is going to be yet another thrilling installment of El Clásico as record title holders FC Barcelona will face off against a Real Madrid side looking to win their first Copa for eighteen years. FC Barcelona’s passage into the final was never in doubt after the first leg finished 5-0 in favour of the Catalans and Wednesday’s return fixture in Almeria was merely a formality. Despite a banner in the crowd optimistically claiming that Almeria would beat their opponents 6-0, FC Barcelona didn’t let slip in a game they didn’t have to be at 100% to win. Goals from Adriano, Thiago and Ibrahim Afellay secured an impressive 3-0 win for an understrength Barceloan team who progressed 8-0 on aggregate. Things were a little more difficult for Real Madrid who had to negotiate their way through a semi-final against defending cup holders Sevilla FC. After a lone Karim Benzema strike was enough to separate the sides in the first leg, los Blancos left it late to seal the deal with Mesut Özil and loan signing Emmanuel Adebayor scoring in the last ten minutes to give Real Madrid a 3-0 aggregate win. The final of this year’s competition will be played in Seville on April 20th in what will be a much anticipated clash of the titans.
The Coupe de France is one of those competitions that seems to thrive on shocks and this year is no exception. Fifth tier outfit SO Chambéry are this year’s big talking point as they knocked out Ligue 1 side FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in the Round of 16 stage by two goals to one. Blast from the past Stade de Reims also made it through to the quarter-finals as the two-time European Cup finalists made it past Stade Rennais needing extra-time to go through 4-3 whilst second tier Le Mans made it past AS Nancy with a 2-0 win. Defending cup holders Paris Saint Germain, looking for a fourth title win in less than a decade, headed the list of top-flight clubs progressing to the last eight with a 4-1 away win at FC Martigues. Lille OSC needed a penalty shoot-out to get past Ligue 2 FC Nantes Atlantique whilst OGC Nice and FC Lorient scrapped their way through with victories over JA Drancy and FC Metz respectively. In the only all-Ligue 2 clash of the round Angers SCO defeated RC Strasbourg by two goals to nil.
The first legs of the Taça de Portugal semi-finals were played this week with the big two FC Porto and SL Benfica going head-to-head in the tie of the round. The former were playing at their Estadio Das Antas home where they very rarely lose a game but were made to suffer on Wednesday night as strikes from Fabio Coentrão and Javi García gave the Eagles of Benfica a healthy two goal advantage to take into April’s second leg. Thursday night’s first leg saw Vitória Guimarães gain a one goal advantage in their first leg tie against Académica de Coimbra with Abdelghani Faouzi scoring the only goal ten minutes before full time.
The Kypello Elladas quarter-finals were decided with this week’s second legs having taken place over the last two nights. Wednesday night saw some major drama as cup holders Panathinaikos and current league leaders Olympiakos Piraeus both going out of the competition. Panathinaikos, who won their 20th Greek cup title last season, were 2-0 down from the first leg to AEK Athens and when Panagiotis Lagos gave AEK the lead in the second leg it looked to be all over for the Greens. Goals from Djibril Cissé, Gilberto Silva and Loukas Vyntra looked to have saved Panathinaikos but there was to be a remarkable twist in the tale as a free-kick from Michel eight minutes into stoppage time sealed a 4-3 aggregate victory for AEK whose reward is to meet PAOK Thessaloniki in the semi-finals after they had disposed of Olympiakos Piraeus 2-1 on aggregate with Dimitris Salpigidis’ second leg strike proving decisive. The other semi-final will feature two lesser lights in Atromitos Halkidona and Olympiakos Vorou who eliminated Diagoras Rhodes and AO Kerkyra respectively.
Finally to Turkey where the quarter-final, first legs took place in the Türkiye Kupasi this week. Beşiktaş were the big winners with a 5-0 win over second division Gaziantep B.B. with Bobô and Manuel Fernandes both getting on the score sheet twice, Ricardo Quaresma scoring the other. Galatasaray had a difficult away tie on Thursday against Gaziantepspor going down to a 3-2 reverse with former Eintracht Frankfurt player Cenk Tosun bagging a brace for the home side. The other ties in the last eight saw a 2-0 win for Gençlerbirliği over Bucaspor whilst Istanbul B.B. and Kasımpaşa SK played out a goalless draw. The second legs will take place in early March.