A header by Raphaël Varane cancelled out Cesc Fàbregas’ strike and ensured the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona finished level.
Raphaël Varane headed in an 81st-minute equaliser as the first instalment of the Copa del Rey semi-final between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona ended all square at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Cesc Fàbregas fired across Diego López, making his debut in the Madrid goal following his arrival last week from Sevilla FC, five minutes into the second half. Varane, making his debut in this fixture, headed the Merengues level late on, setting up a tantalising return at the Camp Nou on 27 February, four days before the teams meet in the league.
The fourth Clásico of the season was less than a minute old when Gerard Piqué fouled Cristiano Ronaldo just as he was about to burst into the penalty area. The Portugal striker’s subsequent free-kick was beaten out by José Pinto.
Jordi Alba and Karim Benzema volleyed wide either side of Xavi Hernández’s bending a free-kick against the crossbar. Three minutes later, Xavi was denied by a goal-line block from Varane after Lionel Messi had seized on Ricardo Carvalho’s underhit back pass.
Ronaldo squandered a chance to level when, stooping down, he headed wide Michael Essien’s cross to the far post, and was then thwarted by a superb Piqué challenge as he wound up to convert Sami Khedira’s delivery. Pedro Rodríguez clipped wide when clean through 18 minutes from time, profligacy which Varane, leaping to meet Mesut Özil’s centre, ensured would not go unpunished.
The first leg of the other semi-final, between Club Atlético de Madrid and Sevilla, takes place on Thursday.