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Copa del Rey, semi-finals, first leg

The first Real Madrid - Barcelona final in 21 years is looking more likely after both teams won their first leg semi-final ties. Real Madrid beat defending champions Sevilla 0-1 in their Sánchez Pizjuán stadium on Wednesday evening, Benzema scoring the only goal early in the first half after picking up a return pass from Özil to run on past Alexis and Escudé before shooting past Palop. The Andalusians caused some problems from dead ball kicks after that, Alexis and Luis Fabiano heading wide and Casillas having to push a Romaric free kick over the bar. But the closest they came to scoring was on the stroke of half time when Raúl Albiol poked the ball away as Luis Fabiano's shot was crossing the line, referee Undiano Mallenco waving away the protests from the home side. After the restart however Madrid could well have added to their lead, with Lass, Xabi Alonso, Carvalho and özil failing to convert chances, and Sevilla didn't trouble Casillas until substitute Negredo tested him a couple of times near the end.

Later in the evening Barcelona thrashed Almería 5-0 to virtually reserve their place in April's final. Messi and Villa scored the first two goals in the tenth and eleventh minutes, visiting keeper Esteban at fault for failing to stop long shots by both forwards. Goitom had a penalty appeal turned down and then fired a shot wide as the visitors tried to get back in the game, but with just over a quarter of an hour gone Iniesta set up Messi for the third. Keepers Pinto and Esteban had to save from Piatti and Pedro respectively, but on the half hour mark Pedro ran in to loop a header over the keeper from Xavi's wide free kick, and it was game over. After the break Maxwell hit the post and Esteban kept out Adriano, Mascherano and Pedro, with Goitom wasting a good chance for the Andalusians. But with a couple of minutes to go Keita completed the scoring after Messi set him up to make next week's second leg a mere formality. (26.01.11)