|Copa del Rey|
Quarter-finals, second leg
Matches played on 15th and 16th January
Real Madrid qualified comfortably for the semi-finals of the Spanish cup despite losing 1-0 against city neighbours Rayo Vallecano. With the game virtually decided in the first leg which Madrid won four nil, both managers took the opportunity to rest tired players and bring in replacements, with Raúl, Zidane and Figo left out of Del Bosque's squad and Flavio playing his first match since returning from a long injury. Gregorio Manzano also made seven changes with one eye on the more important weekend league match against Barcelona. The previous result, plus high ticket prices and the intense cold in Madrid meant that the attendance was even poorer than usual in Vallecas, and those that did turn up soon realised that they would have been better off staying at home. Neither side created any real chance at goal in the first half, although Rayo came closest with Glaucio and Bolo wasting chances. Real Madrid did not trouble Lopetegui until Guti's effort in the 25th minute, although Munitis did give the local fans a fright after the break when he got free, putting his shot just wide of the post. Michel Salgado was carried off in the second half with what could be a serious injury, and Del Bosque took off Roberto Carlos later on once the tie was safe. Rayo still wanted to win the game to give their fans some joy, and a minute after Glaucio hit the post in injury time, second half substitute Roberto Peragón slid the ball past Casillas to give his side victory. Madrid march on to the semi-finals though, on line to take their eighteenth cup title in the final in March in front of their own fans. This is their centenary year and they want to win everything.
An exciting match at the Nuevo Zorilla stadium, where Deportivo La Coruña went through thanks to a Diego Tristán penalty after Valladolid had come back to force the game into extra time. The best crowd of the season turned up for this Wednesday night match, spurred on by their side's three goal victory over their rivals in the league at the weekend. Deportivo though were starting with a two goal advantage after last week's first leg, and Irureta took no chances, putting out a strong side with Diego Tristán and Pandiani leading the attack. They found themselves behind in the third minute though when Fernando, the man who scored twice against them at the weekend, beat Molina with a diving header. Mario added a second ten minutes before half time to level the tie at two apiece, following up after Torres Goméz headed a free kick against the post, and with Deportivo putting in another disappointing performance, the home fans started to believe they could pull it off. However the visitors got their act together to hold on in the second half, and they could have even won if César's strike had not been ruled out for offside. Eight minutes in to extra time the visitors lost Romero when he picked up a second yellow card, but when the teams swapped ends Pandiani won his side the crucial penalty, keeping going long enough to be tripped by Peña inside the area. Tristán kept his cool to stroke home the spot kick, a vital away goal which meant that Valladolid now had to score two more. Referee Fernández Marín left Deportivo with nine men at the end when he sent off Pandiani for a second bookable offence, and after Pepe Moré brought on Pachón for his first appearance of the season, Molina kept out Tote with a reaction save in the last minute. By then the game was over though, and the Gallicians were through to have a chance to repeat their one and only cup victory, which they achieved back in 1995.
Athletic Bilbao completed the formalities on Tuesday night, beating an unmotivated Villarreal 1-0 to become the first team to reach the semi-finals. With a two goal lead from the first leg Jupp Heynckes left last week's goal-scoring hero Tiko on the bench, bringing back Julen Guerrero and Yeste. However Tiko's goals weren't needed as the Basque side wrapped up the game early on, Larrazábal putting Yeste away down the wing for him to set up Guerrero for what was to be the only goal of the game with less than a quarter of an hour on the clock. Villarreal's top striker Víctor missed the game through injury, and Víctor Muñoz started with Guayre and Quique Martín up front. They did their best in the remaining minutes of the first half, and Guayre in particular was unlucky not to score against his fellow under-21 international Aranzubia, who somehow got a hand to his shot to tip it away for a corner. Arruabarrena hit the bar before the break with a cross-come-shot, but Muñoz was not happy with the way things were going and brought on Cagna and Jorge López at half time. Heynckes had also made two changes by then but they were due to injury, Larrazábal and Urzaiz both having to leave the field of play before the break. With half an hour to go the visitors played their last card, bringing on new signing Pizzi in an attempt to get back in the game. Bilbao had it all under control however, and go on to their first cup semi-final since 1987. In fact it has been some sixteen years now since they won the last of their 23 cup titles, but with their home form finally coming together as well they could be back this year. Much though will depend on Friday's draw.
Real Madrid, Deportivo La Coruña, Athletic Bilbao and.....Figueres? The second division B side became the first team from their category ever to reach the semi-finals of the cup after holding on to their first leg lead with a 0-0 draw at home to Córdoba. The giant killers had already eliminated Barcelona and Osasuna in earlier rounds, and they had surprised the second division A side with a nil two victory last week in Andalucia. The Catalans came out fighting right from the start, although it took a good performance by keeper Cavallero to keep out efforts from Soria and Platero in the first half. Tempers were raised after the break, with López Ramos getting sent off for a second bookable offence for the visitors on the hour mark and Dani Fernández picking up a straight red in the last minute of normal time after losing his nerves with the referee. There was a premature crowd invasion when the local fans thought the game had finished, but after an agonising eight minutes of extra time Ayza Gamez finally signalled the end, setting off a festival of celebration in Dali's adopted home town. Modesty prevents us from mentioning that Figueres were our tip to win the cup after the first round, but seriously though with the semi-finals played over two legs it is unlikely that they will be present in the final in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium next March. Right now though they are just enjoying themselves.