MADRID - Real Madrid and Barcelona are
heading for a King's Cup showdown after the great rivals won
their semi-final first legs on Wednesday.
Real won a controversial game 1-0 at holders Sevilla thanks
to a goal from Karim Benzema while Lionel Messi struck twice as
2009 winners Barca thumped Almeria 5-0 at the Nou Camp.
The wealthy pair have carried their domination of La Liga
into the King's Cup and if they advance after next Wednesday's
second legs will meet in the final on April 20, a few days after
they play each other in the league at Real's Bernabeu stadium.
Sevilla had a goal disallowed in a match littered with
yellow cards at a rowdy Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in the
Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas was also hit on the back of
the head by a missile thrown from the crowd after the final
whistle but was not seriously hurt.
Benzema, who scored his second league goal of the season on
Sunday, put Real ahead in the 17th minute.
The France striker exchanged passes with Mesut Ozil, drove
into the penalty area and beat two defenders before firing a low
shot past goalkeeper Andres Palop.
Sevilla thought they were level moments before half-time when
Luis Fabiano rounded Casillas and sent the ball towards the
Raul Albiol slid in with a last-ditch block but television
replays seemed to show the ball had crossed the line before the
Spain defender kicked it away.
"It all happened very quickly," Albiol told reporters. "I
threw myself to the ground and I saw the ball on the line. For
me it did not cross."
The passion of Sevilla's players was not matched by their
ability to create scoring chances and it was Real who almost
snatched a second with just over 10 minutes left.
Ozil broke clear and fed Cristiano Ronaldo who rounded Palop
but was unable to get in a shot and Ozil's eventual effort was
blocked by Alexis Ruano.
Substitute and former Real player Alvaro Negredo volleyed
narrowly wide for Sevilla late on but Jose Mourinho's side held
on and will be confident of progressing to the final as they bid
for a first King's Cup since 1993.
"Some vandal chucked a bottle of water," Casillas said in a
television interview. "It's a shame as the fans were splendid
helping their team and then some idiot caused a problem."
At the Nou Camp, Barca were out of sight by the 30th minute
when Pedro netted their fourth of the night.
World Player of the Year Messi had opened the scoring in the
ninth minute, Spain striker David Villa added a second two
minutes later and Messi a third in the 16th.
Barca won 8-0 at Almeria earlier in the season and a repeat
of that drubbling looked on the cards.
However the Andalucian club, in the last four for the first
time, held the league leaders at bay until the 88th minute when
substitute Seydou Keita ran on to Messi's pass and stroked the
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