Big two set up Clasico final
Spanish superpowers Barcelona and Real Madrid set up a mouth-watering Copa del Rey final against each other after both clubs progressed through their respective semi-finals this evening.
Barcelona, leading 5-0 from their first leg against Almeria, cruised through 8-0 on aggregate thanks to second-leg goals from Adriano, Thiago and recent signing Ibrahim Afellay - his first for the club.
Madrid had tougher task against holders Sevilla, but goals in the last eight minutes from Mesut Ozil and substitute Emmanuel Adebayor - on his home debut - earned Jose Mourinho's men a 2-0 win on the night and a 3-0 victory on aggregate. Sevilla finished the match with ten men when Sergio Sanchez was dismissed late on after being shown a yellow card for scything down Adebayor.
The two results mean that Barcelona and Madrid will meet each other in a Copa del Rey final for the first time since 1990, when the Catalan side won 2-0 in Valencia.
In the evening's first semi-final, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, whose side won 8-0 on their last visit to the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterraneos in the league before Christmas, opted to rest a number of his first-choice regulars with their tie all but done and dusted. The likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and David Villa were all left on the bench, but it mattered little as a much-changed Barcelona ran out convincing winners nevertheless.
Almeria - playing at this stage for the first time ever - went close to opening the scoring when Sofiane Feghouli hit the post in the 27th minute with the first real chance of the game, but within seven minutes of that effort Barcelona were ahead through a fine individual goal from Adriano.
Barcelona, looking to extend their tournament-best record of Copa del Rey crowns to 26, made it 2-0 when Thiago looped a header into the far corner of the net in the 55th minute. Dutch international Afellay then wrapped up the scoring ten minutes later with his maiden strike for the club, the former PSV Eindhoven man thumping a low shot past Esteban Suarez.
"I am glad to get through to the final and it was a great team performance," said Adriano. "It was fantastic to score my first goal for Barcelona. I don't mind who we get in the final."
Madrid leave it late
The evening's late kick-off produced a cagey affair with clear-cut goalscoring chances few and far between. Madrid should have taken the lead in the fifth minute when Angel Di Maria's low shot came back off the post and Karim Benzema somehow managed to put the rebound wide with the goal at his mercy.
Sevilla's former Madrid striker Alvaro Negredo then felt he had put his side ahead after lobbing a fine finish over Iker Casillas, but the effort was ruled out for a marginal offside decision. That would be one of the few scares Madrid would suffer on the evening, and they had several opportunities to take the lead with Cristiano Ronaldo, Di Maria and Benzema failing to make the most of them.
Sevilla had five forwards on the pitch in the end but their hopes of taking the tie to extra-time were crushed in the 82nd minute when Ozil put Madrid ahead. A superb ball by his Germany team-mate Sami Khedira saw Ozil clean through and the playmaker coolly rounded Javi Varas before rolling into an empty net.
Sevilla then lost Sanchez to a red card before Madrid, who have not won the cup since 1993, added a second goal late on when Adebayor, who joined on loan from Manchester City last week, chested down a Lassana Diarra cross before thumping an unstoppable volley into the roof of the net.