Karim Benzema scored twice to lead Real Madrid 3-1 over Girona in the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal tie, allowing the Blancos to advance to the final four by a decisive 7-3 on aggregate. The French international was the dominant figure of the match at the Montivili stadium on Thursday night.
Yet the first important action of the night came in Real Madrid’s end, where the hosts won a free kick in the second minute and Alex Granell hit the cross-bar, squandering a great opportunity to narrow Girona’s deficit to one goal. After threatening the Girona goal on three separate occasions, Benzema outfoxed keeper Gorka Iraizoz to make it 1-0 in the 27th minute.
Now trailing by three goals on aggregate, Girona remained energetic on the attack, but top strikers Cristhian Stuani and Choco Lozano struggled. With three minutes left in the first half, Benzema struck again with a shot that caromed off the right post and into the net to shatter any remaining hopes for a Girona comeback.
Girona coach Eusebio Sacristan symbolically threw in the towel in the 57th minute, pulling his best player, Stuani, out of the game with an eye toward the team’s weekend match in La Liga.
Job done, Benzema went off a minute later to make room for Marco Asensio.
The contest entered a spell of tedium that lasted until the 71st minute, when Girona’s Pedro Porro scored his first professional goal to reduce the gap to 6-3. Four minutes later, Marcos Llorente put the ball past Iraizoz to restore Real Madrid’s advantage to four goals.
Trailing Barcelona by 10 points in La Liga, Real Madrid are highly motivated to give a good account of themselves in the Copa del Rey. Also through to the semifinals are Barcelona, who are hoping to hoist the Copa de Rey trophy for a fifth consecutive year; Valencia and Real Betis.
Real Madrid have won the competition 19 times. Barcelona have 30 Copa del Rey titles to their credit.
Betis won the Copa in 2005, which is also the last time the club reached the final four. This year’s final will be played at their home, Benito Villamarin stadium in Seville.
The most recent of Valencia’s seven Copa del Rey championships came in 2008.
(With IANS Inputs)