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Real Madrid stun Barca to enter final

Posted on Feb 27, 11:00PM | IANS

Barcelona, Feb 27 : Two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo led Real Madrid to the final of Copa del Rey as they qualified with a stunning 3-1 win away to eternal rivals FC Barcelona at Camp Nou stadium here to obtain a 4-2 aggregate triumph following the 1-1 draw in the Santiago Bernabeu three weeks ago.

To beat Barca on any given day is a great result for Madrid but to take such an authoritative win on their great rivals' home turf will also give them a massive morale boost ahead of next week's Champions League tie against Manchester United, where they must overcome the same first leg result, reports Xinhua.

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho included one surprise in his starting 11 with Alvaro Arbeloa coming into the side to replace Pepe, with Rafael Varene partnering Sergio Ramos moving back into central defence.

Meanwhile, Xabi Alonso was in the side after suffering from a groin problem and Gonzalo Higuain was given the nod in attack ahead of Karim Benzema.

Barcelona fielded the same side which lost in Milan in the Champions League a week ago, with the exception of Jose Pinto, who is a regular first choice in the Cup. That meant there was no place for David Villa in the starting 11.

Although Andres Iniesta fired wide in the first minute and Pedro Rodriguez linked well to set up Lionel Messi a minute later, Barca fell into the same vices as in Italy. Against a Real Madrid side organised with Mourinho's typical rigour, Barca failed to move the ball with pace and looked static in possession while worryingly open at the back.

Dani Alves had already been forced to react quickly once to stop Ronaldo before the Portuguese striker spearheaded another counter-attack with the Barca defence out of position. The exposed Gerard Pique committed foul in the penalty area and Ronaldo sent Pinto the wrong way from the spot to put Madrid in front.

Barca had their chances, best of all a Messi freekick which grazed the post. Overall the first half the hosts looked nervous against a Madrid side that looked comfortable in defence and with more precision.

The fans in Camp Nou could sense their side needed a change and 10 minutes after the break the chant sounded out from the stands for David Villa to enter the field but when the striker did just that four minutes later Barca were 0-2 down.

A Barca attack was smothered out on the edge of the Madrid area and Angel D Maria picked up what was little more than a punted clearance went past Puyol into the Barca area. Pinto did well to save but the loose ball fell to Ronaldo, who had little trouble firing into the back of the net.

Barca now needed three goals to reach the final with just over half an hour remaining and when Varene headed home Madrid's third of the night after 68 minutes. Later, Jordi Alba scored a late consolation for the home side.

The second finalist will be decided Wednesday night when Atletico Madrid defend a 2-1 first leg lead away to Sevilla.