Barcelona survives Real Madrid's surge
BARCELONA, Spain (AP)
Barcelona held off a spirited Real Madrid fightback to salvage a 2-2 draw that was enough to see it through to the Copa del Rey semifinals.
Madrid dominated a frantic, up-tempo game full of penalty appeals and physical play early on, but still had to watch as Barcelona took a 2-0 lead into halftime thanks to late first-half goals from substitute Pedro Rodriguez and Daniel Alves.
Having lost the first leg 2-1 and needing three goals to advance, Cristiano Ronaldo started the rally with a 68th-minute goal before substitute Karim Benzema equalized from an individual effort in the 73rd.
But Barcelona once again came out on top of the traditional matchup as Madrid coach Jose Mourinho left the Camp Nou winless in nine visits.
''We played a great team, this is a 'clasico' so you know right up to the end you're going to have to suffer and hold off your rival,'' said Alves, who scored one of the best goals of his career with a scorching shot in the second half. ''They caused us a lot of problems by pressuring high, but we knew how to respond.''
Mourinho certainly didn't approach the return with the same defensive plan he used in the first leg, and opted to include Pepe in the lineup despite the defender - who was jeered loudly with every touch - drawing widespread criticism for stamping on Lionel Messi's hand in the first leg.
Mourinho had also been criticized after that game, as his defensive tactics caused some to question his future with the Spanish club.
Madrid was unlucky over the first half hour as Mesut Oezil hit the crossbar with a superb 30-meter effort, and Barcelona keeper Jose Manuel Pinto made a number of point-blank stops on Gonzalo Higuain.
Andres Iniesta was taken off with a leg injury and replaced by Pedro after 30 minutes. The forward ran wide on a counterattack as Messi drew three defenders before flicking a perfect pass over to the Spain international, who slotted past Iker Casillas for the 43rd-minute opener with Barcelona's first shot on goal.
Lassana Diarra escaped a second booking for tackling Messi's just before the break, but Barcelona scored from the resulting free kick.
Xavi Hernandez's free kick was deflected into the path of Alves, who rifled an unstoppable first-time shot from just outside the area into the top far corner past the outstretched Casillas.
Madrid had a Sergio Ramos goal waived off in the 54th for a foul, but Ronaldo managed to breathe life into the already highly charged match by running onto Oezil's through ball to round Pinto and score from a tight angle.
Benzema, who had replaced Higuain in the 62nd, then juggled a loose ball over Carles Puyol inside the area and controlled it with his hip before volleying in the equalizer to put Madrid one goal away from advancing.
Both teams had a number of penalty appeals turned down throughout the match and Madrid could not find a winner as Barcelona continued its recent domination over its top rival.
The Spanish and European champions will play either Valencia or Levante next, with Valencia ahead 4-1 going into Thursday's return match.
Earlier Wednesday, Athletic Bilbao beat Mallorca 1-0 to reach the semifinals 3-0 on aggregate, where third-tier club Mirandes awaits.