Valencia 1-1 Real Madrid (Agg 1-3): Blancos finish wth nine men but ensure progression to last four

Nine-man Real Madrid qualified for the semi-finals of the Copa Del Rey after a 1-1 draw with Valencia in the second-leg of their quarter final tie at the Mestalla.

Jose Mourinho’s men progressed 3-1 on aggregate, and recorded their third undefeated game over Los Che in eight days, adding to their 5-0 Liga triumph over the weekend, and the 2-0 first leg win at the Bernabeu.

A tight first-half saw Madrid lose Iker Casillas to a freak injury, but a goal by Karim Benzema moments before the interval put the visitors in sight of the next round, and left Valencia needing four goals to recover.

Fabio Coentrao’s 51st minute red card and a free-kick from Tino Costa gave the hosts a glimmer of hope, but despite controlling the second half and a late dismissal for Angel Di Maria, they could not muster a response as los Blancos held on to advance to a last four tie against either Malaga or Barcelona.

Benzema was the only change from the side that started the match at the Mestalla on Sunday, the French international replacing Gonaalo Higuain as the visitors’ lone forward.

Though Valencia started brightly, it was Madrid who threatened first, with Ronaldo forcing a save at the near post from Guaita after latching on to Xabi Alonso’s precise through ball.

However, the capital outfit were handed a blow with 17 minutes gone, as Casillas was forced off for Antonio Adan after a bizzare incident where he was accidentally kicked on the hand by Alvaro Arbeloa.

And the Madrid reserve keeper was soon called into action to stop a bullet header from Haedo Valdez, who had risen highest to meet Andres Guardado’s free kick.

Adan would thwart the Paraguayan forward once more shortly after the half hour mark, this time blocking him from point blank range after the Valencia man had found space to shoot inside the six yard area.

Madrid found themselves on the ropes somewhat, and attempted to wrest control of the game back from the hosts when Di Maria brought an acrobatic save out of Guaita with a testing drive from 25 yards out.

And on the stroke of first-half injury time, los Blancos put the tie virtually out of reach when a quick throw saw Alonso tee up Benzema, who lost Ricardo Costa and slotted home a vital away goal.

But Valencia were given a little reason to hope six minutes into the second half when Coentrao was shown his second yellow card for a handball. The Portuguese’s infraction was doubly damaging, as Costa was able to steer the resulting free-kick under Adan to make it 4-1.

The gameplan from both sides was simple after that, as Valencia, still needing three goals, continued to press forward, while Madrid, mindful of their numerical disadvantage, adopted a defensive approach for the remainder of the game.

And though los Che managed to force almost every one of the opposition players behind the ball, their monopolization of possession could not break down the visitors, who had abandoned almost all of their interest in attacking.

Di Maria was sent off with minutes to go for a petulant kick-out on Joao Pereira, but it came too late to aid Valencia, as Madrid held on for qualification, and now await a potential Clasico semi-final, should Barcelona get past Malaga on Thursday.

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