Copa del Rey

Fifth round, first leg

Real Madrid virtually sealed their place in the next round with a 0-3 victory at Numancia on Thursday. As expected, Zidane changed most of his line up, but Bale put them ahead from the penalty spot after Carlos Gutiérrez fouled Lucas Vázquez in the area shortly before the break. The second division side were left with ten men when Diamanka was shown two yellow cards in succession after the break, but Iñigo Pérez hit the bar from the halfway line before Isco converted a second penalty (again on Vázquez) near the end, and Borja Mayoral headed the third from Achraf’s cross in injury time.

Barcelona also travelled to Celta without several key players, Messi, Luis Suárez and Iniesta in particular being left at home. However they came away from the Balaidos stadium with a 1-1 draw which gives them the edge for next week’s return leg. Youngster José Arnáiz opened the scoring for the visitors after André Gomes set him up on the quarter hour mark, but a few minutes later Iago Aspas turned the ball against the crossbar, and Piuone Sisto fired the rebound past Cillessen to make it all square. Busquets hit the bar after the break and Sergio Alvarez had to save from Arnáiz and substitute Dembele (making his first appearance after a long injury lay-off), and Emre Mor went close at the other end, but both teams finally settled for the result.

Barcelona’s city rivals Espanyol are struggling though after they were beaten 1-2 by Levante. Gerard Moreno headed the Catalans into the lead from Piatti’s cross with half an hour gone, but Morales penalty levelled the scores before the break with a controversial penalty after Victor Sánchez handled in the area, the locals claiming that the ball had gone out of play in the build up. Sergio García and Darder both hit the post after the restart and Raúl Fernández pulled off good saves from Naldo and Moreno, but Ivi turned in a Morales centre with a quarter of an hour to go to give the visitors a surprise win.

Elsewhere Leganés beat Villarreal 1-0, Amrabat getting the only goal early on in the second half after picking up a long clearance and running on past Pau Torres to squeeze a shot past Barbosa. Enes Ünal caused a few problems for Champagne on his return from his short loan at Levante, and Dani Raba also went close a couple of times, but in the end the locals held on to take the advantage in the tie. (04.01.18)

The short winter break is over, and the new year opened with the first legs of the fifth round of the cup. Four teams were in action on Wednesday, including Atlético Madrid, who are almost sure of a place in the last eight after a 0-4 win at second division B side Lleida. A Godín header from a Carrasco free kick, and a Fernando Torres strike from Gameiro’s cross put Simeone’s team two up at the break. Diego Costa celebrated his return scoring the third with his first touch from Juanfran’s centre after coming on a substitute, and after the Catalans were left with ten men when Trilles was sent off for a second yellow card, Griezmann completed the scoring with a direct free kick which deflected in off the defensive wall in injury time.

Last season’s runners-up Alavés are also close to qualifying after they beat the other regional side Formentera 1-3. B team striker Demirovic took advantage of a first start to score two goals either side of half time, the first a glancing header from a cross by another youngster, Víctor López, and the second with a clever back-heel flick from Sobrino’s centre. The Balearic islanders put up a good fight though, Javi Rosa momentarily equalising with a header from a corner at the start of the second half, and it was not until ten minutes from the end that substitute Munir combined with Wakaso for the third.

Sevilla’s new coach Vicenzo Montella got off to a good start, the Andalusians winning 0-2 at neighbours Cádiz later in the evening. The second division team had knocked out Sevilla’s city rivals Betis in the last round, but Banega put Nolito through to open the scoring with less than ten minutes gone, and Jesús Navas picked up a long pass from Kjaer to make it two a few minutes later. The locals could have got back in the tie though had Sergio Rico not saved a Salvi penalty after the keeper brought down the forward later on in the second half.

Las Palmas were under new management as well, Paco Jémez returning to his home town as the Canary Islander’s fourth coach this season. They got off to a good start against Valencia, Calleri giving them the lead from a Borja Herrera cross shortly before the break. However the Ches came back after the restart, Zaza failing to convert a couple of chances before substitute Rodrigo got on the end of a Toni Lato centre to save a 1-1 draw near the end. (03.01.18)