Barcelona delivered a huge performance in their first leg meeting against Real Madrid, setting themselves up for asemifinal victoryone step away from the 2023 Copa del Rey Final. Playing without three key attackers, the Blaugrana knew they needed to be both disciplined and composed defensively, and they proved to be more than up to the challenge. In a very tight match dominated by defensive play, it was an unlikely Victor’s goal that ultimately broke the deadlock. A Nacho own goal sealed off a vital 1-0 win for BarcelonaandDespite having two successive losses last week,Barca now hold a huge advantage going into next month’s return leg at Camp Nou and are looking confident of progressing all the way throughto the final.
Madrid’s strong start was expected, but what wasn’t expected was the solid response and control by Barcelona. They stood staunch in defense with excellent tackling and physicality, weathering the intensity attack of Los Blancos in the first 15 minutes. As they become more comfortable they began pushing higher up the pitch, moving the ball efficiently from back to front and aggressively looking for sloppy mistakes to take advantage of while continuing to throw a stifling defensive presence. Though Madrid had brought a lot of energy, Barcelona proved prepared to match it, successfully nullifying their attacks.
Barça made their one chance of the half count by taking advantage of an uncharacteristic error from Madrid. Tactful play from Ferran Torres allowed Franck Kessie to capitalize and give his team a solid lead heading into the second half, although luck did also play a part in the own goal. Los Blancos were unable to return serve, despite throwing everyone forward and ensuring Courtois remained in his box for quick throw-ins. They continued to press going into the break, but Barça’s poise kept them at bay. The second 45 minutes would surely be much more frantic with Real desperate to make up ground, while Barcelona was looking to put this one to bed early.
Madrid started the final period strongly, but Barça showed why they are top of the league by responding with an impressive 15 minutes. The Catalans pushed forward, making the most of their possession and exploring the spaces left by Madrid’s desperation. Two huge counter-attacks could have brought them a second goal had it not been for some unfortunate meddling from both Raphinha and Ansu Fati. With two missed opportunities, Barca remained 0-0, leaving their desperate plight unresolved as the tension mounted in the stadium.
The clash between Madrid and Barça was billed as the biggest encounter of the season, and they certainly did not disappoint. We all knew that it would take something special from the Catalan outfit to get a victory, and their outstanding performance in those final 10 minutes plus added time will surely go down in history. Madrid threw everything at Barça but marshaled by Xavi Hernández’s tactical prowess, the Blaugrana held firm, defended resolutely and managed to withstand the intense pressure right until the end, withstanding numerous crosses and shots on goal. Finally, when the referee blew his whistle, it signalled jubilation for Barcelona as they celebrated one of their most memorable wins of the entire season.