Madrid ease into next round
Despite having coach Jose Mourinho banished to the stands and Alvaro Arbeloa sent-off, Real Madrid brushed aside Segunda Division B Real Murcia 5-1 at the Bernabeu tonight to advance in the Copa del Rey.
After being held 0-0 in the away leg there was always the danger Madrid could suffer yet another embarrassing exit at the last-32 stage, having been knocked out in this round by other third-tier outfits Alcorcon and Real Union in the last two years. However, even the 38th-minute dismissal of Mourinho for excessive protesting to the referee had little effect on Madrid and they cruised to victory thanks to goals from Esteban Granero, Gonzalo Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema (penalty) and Xabi Alonso.
Madrid had Alvaro Arbeloa sent off in the 80th minute and conceded a penalty to Pedro soon after, but otherwise home goalkeeper Iker Casillas had little to worry about. Mourinho, who has now won 12 of his 16 competitive games in charge and has yet to taste defeat, sent out a much-changed line-up that included seven Spanish players. And it was one of those home-grown products, Granero, who put Madrid ahead with a superb 20-yard effort that flew into the top corner past a helpless Dani Hernandez. Of the 35 goals scored under Mourinho this season, that was only the second one to be netted by one of Madrid's Spanish players after Pedro Leon's Champions League effort against AC Milan.
That was the perfect start for Madrid, but the home crowd had precious little else to get excited about during the remainder of the first half until just before the break. Not long after Mourinho had been banished from the dugout, Higuain had a great chance to double Madrid's lead when he muscled a Murcia defender off the ball eight yards out but then blazed over. That was in the 43rd minute but 60 seconds later the Argentinian made amends when he picked up a corner at the far post and drilled home a low shot. That proved to be Higuain's final contribution of the match as he was one of two players sacrificed at the break as Mourinho sent on big guns Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso in a bid to kill the tie off. The switch almost paid immediate dividends with the lively Ronaldo going close twice in the opening six minutes of the half.
Benzema then hit the crossbar before Ronaldo made it 3-0 with 15 minutes to go, slotting home from close range following a brilliant cross by fellow substitute Angel Di Maria. Madrid suffered a brief scare with around 10 minutes to go when they lost Arbeloa to a second booking before Murcia made it 3-1 soon after thanks to Pedro's penalty, but the home side need not have worried as they added late goals from Benzema and Alonso. Di Maria was brought down in the 85th minute and the much-maligned Benzema coolly fired in only his second goal of season before Alonso's deflected free-kick completed the scoring.In tonight's other early kick-off in the Copa del Rey, Segunda Division Real Betis knocked out top-flight strugglers Real Zaragoza on away goals following a 2-1 away win.