Benzema treble as Madrid beat Barca

Striker scores hat-trick in team’s 4-0 win over Catalans to enter Copa del Rey final

AFP April 06, 2023


Karim Benzema struck a hat-trick as Real Madrid hammered Barcelona 4-0 at Camp Nou to reach the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday, progressing 4-1 on aggregate.

Vinicius Junior opened the scoring just before the break as Carlo Ancelotti's side mounted a spectacular comeback from their one-goal semi-final first leg deficit, with Benzema adding a second-half treble.

After netting three at the weekend against Real Valladolid in La Liga, Benzema repeated the trick to humiliate Barcelona on a painful night for coach Xavi Hernandez in front of almost 95,000 distraught fans.

Los Blancos trail their arch-rivals by 12 points in La Liga and were beaten by Barca in the Spanish Super Cup final in January, but triumphed here to reach the Copa final for the first time since 2014, where they will face Osasuna.

"It was a complete game -- when you play a complete game, you win 4-0 like that," said Ancelotti.

"This is the most important moment of the season and when we're at the right temperature (like this), we're good."

Madrid turfed out the record 31-time cup winners with a muscular performance on a spiky night in Barcelona, where they also ended a demoralising run of three consecutive Clasico defeats.

Barcelona's Sergi Roberto said letting in Vinicius' goal on the stroke of half-time was a huge blow.

"Their goal at the end of the first half killed us, we didn't deserve to let in that goal. I think we were better in the first half," the midfielder told RTVE.

"We created more chances that we didn't put away, and that goal hurt our morale. In the second half they scored the second and we couldn't play our game."

The Catalan said defeat would not damage Barcelona's title bid in the final weeks of the season.

"Now we have a considerable points distance, it will not affect us, we have to continue and go for the league," he added.

Xavi was without injured quartet Ousmane Dembele, Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Andreas Christensen, and eventually it told.

The game started at a furious pace and intensity, both teams keen to reach the final, but absolutely desperate not to be knocked out by the other.

Barca coach Xavi was booked for protesting a foul as tempers boiled over, while Gavi and Vinicius were also issued yellow cards as they scrapped.

Thousands of Barcelona fans chanted Lionel Messi's name in the 10th minute, amid speculation he could leave Paris Saint-Germain, and they would have dearly loved some of the Argentine's magic.

Los Blancos took the lead in stoppage time at the end of the first half, when they showed their prowess on the counter-attack.

Thibaut Courtois made a fine save to deny Robert Lewandowski and exactly 20 seconds later, Vinicius struck at the other end.

Rodrygo cut the ball back to the forward, who squeezed a shot home despite Jules Kounde's best attempt at a goal-line clearance. Benzema was on hand to make sure, but Vinicius's effort had already crossed the line.

The French forward soon was able to pounce though, finishing lethally from the edge of the box in an ocean of space after Luka Modric easily skipped away from Sergi Roberto.

Barcelona collapsed after that -- Benzema slotted home his second from the penalty spot before the hour mark, sending Marc-Andre ter Stegen the wrong way after Franck Kessie clumsily fouled Vinicius.

Ter Stegen denied Marco Asensio and then Benzema completed his hat-trick with a cool finish after a fine dribble and pass by Vinicius.

"Congratulations to Real Madrid, they had a great second half and compete very well," said Xavi.

"If you let Madrid off the hook, they don't forgive you. It's not by chance they have won the Champions League -- they have a great team."

Madrid have lifted the Copa del Rey on 19 occasions, while their opponents Osasuna have never won it, securing passage to their second final after beating Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.


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