Real Madrid and Barcelona are on a collision course in the Copa del Rey as they both won the first leg of their semifinals tonight. Real Madrid beat holders Sevilla 1-0 while Barcelona rolled over Almeria 5-0.
The hero once for Madrid again was Karim Benzema, who answered his critics with a valuable away goal in the 17th minute. Benzema gathered the ball inside the Sevilla half, dribbled into the area and shook off two defenders before beating goalkeeper Andres Palop with a low right-footed strike.
Defending champion Sevilla nearly equalized just before halftime when Madrid defender Raul Albiol slowed Luis Fabiano’s goalbound shot and eventually kept it out of goal. However, TV replays suggested the ball may have crossed the line.
The tense atmosphere boiled over toward the end when Madrid keeper Iker Casillas was hit in the head by what appeared to be a plastic bottle thrown from the stands. Madrid returns to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium for next week’s return leg looking to secure a place in the final, where biggest rival Barcelona will likely await after another dominating performance.
Lionel Messi scored a double and David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez added goals in the opening 31 minutes. Substitute Seydou Keita completed the rout in the 89th to leave Almeria with little hope after suffering a second straight lopsided defeat to the Spanish champion.
Record 25-time champion Barcelona and 17-time winner Madrid are on course to meet in the April 20 final in Madrid, which comes just three days after the pair meet in a crucial league match at the Bernabeu.