Sergio Ramos came through in the attacking end to help Real Madrid take one step toward the Copa del Rey semifinals.

By Associated Press
January 24, 2019

MADRID (AP) – With some help from defender Sergio Ramos in attack, Real Madrid came from behind to defeat Girona 4-2 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals on Thursday.

Ramos twice gave Madrid the lead against a gritty Girona team that had opened the scoring less than 10 minutes into the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

A late goal by Karim Benzema gave the hosts a two-goal advantage ahead of the second leg next week at Girona, which is trying to pull off another Copa upset after eliminating Atletico Madrid in the round of 16.

Winless in nine straight matches in all competitions, Girona took the lead with a seventh-minute goal by Honduran striker Anthony Lozano, but Real Madrid regained control after Lucas Vazquez equalized from inside the area in the 18th and Ramos converted a 42nd-minute penalty - Panenka-style, down the middle - after Vinicius Junior was fouled inside the area.

Girona came back with a penalty converted by captain Alex Granell in the 66th after a handball by Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente, who had entered the match only a few minutes earlier. Ramos came to the rescue again in the 77th, scoring with header into the top corner after a cross by Marcelo for his 102nd career goal.

Benzema added to the lead in the 80th with a touch from close range after a low cross by Vinicius Junior.

Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari didn't rest many of his top players, while Girona was without some key pieces of its squad, including striker Cristhian Stuani.

Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos made his return from injury by replacing Luka Modric in the second half.

On Tuesday, Getafe defeated Valencia 1-0 at home as the quarterfinals got underway. Four-time defending champion Barcelona - without Lionel Messi and other regular starters - lost 2-0 at Sevilla on Wednesday in a rematch of the Copa final both in 2016 and 2018.

LATE DRAW

Earlier Thursday, Real Betis scored late to draw 1-1 with Espanyol in Barcelona.

Borja Iglesias put the hosts ahead from close range in the 27th minute, and Paraguayan forward Antonio Sanabria evened the match following a quick counterattack in the 81st.

''It was pity to concede that goal in the end,'' Espanyol coach Joan ''Rubi'' Ferrer said. ''The most difficult part of the game was already behind us.''

It was an open match from the start at RCDE Stadium, with both goalkeepers having to make several difficult saves.

Betis had a goal disallowed for offside in the 63rd.

''It was a good result for us, but we could have done even more,'' Real Betis coach Quique Setien said.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)