Barcelona and Real Madrid will bring a goal apiece to their Copa del Rey semifinal second leg after playing to a spirited 1-1 Clasico draw in the first leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
It was at Camp Nou in October that Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5-1 in a lopsided edition of their rivalry, one that resulted in the firing of Julen Lopetegui as manager. Under Santiago Solari, Real Madrid enjoyed a vastly improved result, even having a lead six minutes in through Lucas Vazquez.
Barcelona, which has had to battle back from first-leg deficits throughout the Copa del Rey while rotating its squad, did not have Lionel Messi available from the start after the Argentine star suffered a minor leg injury over the weekend, though he did enter later on. His replacement, Malcom, scored the equalizer in the 57th minute that sends the series back to the Bernabeu level.
Both sides looked to score early and were aggressive with balls over the top, with both Real Madrid rising star Vinicius Junior and Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho whistled for offsides after getting in behind a bit prematurely within the first three minutes.
Real Madrid put the first chance on frame in the fifth minute, with Toni Kroos being given the time and space to fire away from 20 yards, only for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to making a diving save, parrying away the blast.
Real Madrid kept the pressure up and got its opener moments later, though. The in-form Karim Benzema took down a cross from Vinicius with a perfect touch and delivered a pinpoint set-up for Vazquez, who turned in a first-time finish after a near-post run to stun the Camp Nou crowd and make it 1-0 to the visitors.
Real Madrid had two more chances to add to the lead off of a pair of turnovers in the next 10 minutes. On one, Vinicius led a 3-on-2 situation and wound up having a shot blocked instead of deferring to his left or right, where he had runners. On another, the teenage sensation either misread the situation or mis-hit an attempt to cross, having a ball from a left-sided angle put out for a corner instead of delivering an accurate cross to Benzema.
Barcelona's best chance came two minutes later through Malcom. The play was ultimately and incorrectly whistled offside late, but after nearly turning the ball over, Barcelona broke forward, with Luis Suarez playing Malcom in behind 1-v-1 with Keylor Navas. The Brazilian's effort on the breakaway was poor, and Navas made the sliding save anyway, despite being bailed out by the offside flag after the fact.
Some of Barcelona's best action came off set plays, and the hosts nearly pulled even in the 32nd minute, when Ivan Rakitic glanced a header off the crossbar. That was followed by another pair of chances sparked by Vinicius. First, his cross for Benzema was just out of the reach of the Frenchman. Then, he had another chance from just outside the box blocked and put out for a corner.
On the other end, Barcelona continued to push for the equalizer. Malcom did well to shake three defenders and find space for a lay-off pass to Suarez, who appeared to pick out the low, far corner–that is, until a diving Navas managed to palm it to safety with a full-extension save in the 35th minute.
With chants of "MES-SI" coming from the Camp Nou faithful, Barcelona looked to secure the equalizer, but it couldn't seriously threaten Real Madrid's rearguard in the opening 10 minutes. Coutinho, quiet again after showing glimpses of form recently, tried to bend a speculative chance from 25 yards, but it went well wide of the frame in the 53rd minute.
The equalizer did come four minutes later, though. It capped a wild sequence, which started with Clement Lenglet's ball down the left-hand side for Jordi Alba. Navas came racing off his line to slide the ball away from the left back, but it fell for Suarez at a tight angle. The Uruguayan put his follow-up chance on frame with a first-time curling effort, but Sergio Ramos heroically cleared it off the line. Malcom stayed with the play, though and patiently finished into the vacated net before Real Madrid's defenders or Navas could recover, bringing Barcelona level at 1-1.
With that, both managers went to work. Real Madrid was forced into an injury substitute as Marcos Llorente went out for Casemiro, and Solari also ended Vinicius's night, bringing on Gareth Bale just as Ernesto Valverde went to his bench to bring Messi and Arturo Vidal on for Coutinho and Rakitic in the 63rd minute.
Bale had a golden chance to be the hero in the 82nd minute, but he flubbed it. With ter Stegen way off his line and outside of the box to clear away a ball from Raphael Varane, he could only nudge it as fas as Benzema. Instead of having a go from long range toward an empty net, Benzema picked out a wide-open Bale, but Nelson Semedo recovered enough on defense and block Bale's attempt, forcing it out for a fruitless corner kick.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Barcelona and Real Madrid will meet twice more within the span of a month. The second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals takes place Feb. 27 at Real's Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, and the two sides will clash there again in league play on March 2.