Copa del Rey: Benzema scores two as Real Madrid reach semis
Karim Benzema continued his fine recent form with two first-half strikes against Girona as Los Blancos sealed a 7-3 aggregate win on Thursday.
Girona 1-3 Real Madrid (3-7 on agg.): as it happened
Madrid join Valencia, Real Betis and Barcelona in tomorrow lunchtime's last-four draw. You will of course be able to follow live coverage of that right here on AS English. Thanks for reading!Peep peep peeeeep! Real Madrid book their place in the Copa del Rey semi-finals for the first time since 2014, and much of the credit for that must go to Karim Benzema, who has been in fantastic form of late and was unstoppable tonight. Having scored once to help Madrid into a 4-2 first-leg lead a week ago, the Frenchman's two sublime strikes at Montilivi had the visitors as good as out of sight at half time, despite having far from had it their own way in an even first 45. Pedro Porro's late goal gave the hosts the slimmest glimmer of hope with 20 minutes left of an equally hard-fought second period, but it was swiftly extinguished by a superb Marcos Llorente hit, and
93' Valery cuts the ball back across goal, but Varane is there to clear... and that's that!
90' Three minutes of time added on at Montilivi. Madrid are heading through; Girona are heading for their 11th straight game without a win. They have certainly played their part in this quarter-final tie, though.
This is Pachón's debut for Girona, by the way. He certainly hasn't played like it's his first appearance.
86' Girona almost score a second! Valery crosses low from the right, but a stretching Carnero can't quite turn the ball goalwards, and succeeds only in finding the side-netting. Up the other end, Bale is inches away from sliding in a low Lucas cross. One thing's for sure, it's not been short on chances, this game.
84' Varane is down and in need of attention after hurting his neck, but after a couple of minutes of concern looks like he'll be OK.
80' Ufff! Lucas curls a sweetly-struck, Whiteside in the '85 Cup final-esque shot just past Iraizoz's post. Bale then pumps a strike over the bar from just outside of the box.
79' That's a decent effort from Bernardo, who chests down a long ball at the back post, turns inside Marcelo and fires at goal from 10 yards or so out... but sends his strike just over!
Llorente picks the ball up 30 yards from goal, knocks it past his man and thumps a low strike past Iraizoz and into the bottom corner! Boom. 7-3 on aggregate.
75' Now they need five! What a fine goal by Llorente!
74' Bale draws a smart stop from Iraizoz with a fizzing drive from the edge of the area. Quarter of an hour left at Montilivi, Girona need three to take the tie to extra time.
Porro plays it to the newly-introduced Pachón, and then runs in behind the Madrid backline to collect the return and beat Keylor! That's his first goal for the club!
70' Porro scores! That's one goal back for Girona!
69' Porro is down and in a lot of pain after falling majorly awkwardly. Thankfully, he's up and running again a few moments later, and all being well has not done himself any significant damage.
67' Off goes Vinicius, and on comes Bale for his first appearance in the Copa del Rey this term. Girona also make a change moments later, Pachón replacing Paik.
64' What a miss by Lucas Vázquez. The winger slips Asensio into shooting space in the Girona box, and when the subsititute's angled strike is parried by Iraizoz, the loose ball falls right to him... but, with the net gaping, he hits the post from six yards out. To say it should be 3-0 would not be doing it justice.
62' Nacho is on for Ramos, whose legs need to be kept fresh for Madrid's clash against Alavés this weekend, particularly with Varane suspended for that clash. Bale is about to come on too.
Asensio makes his first appearance for Real Madrid since playing the last half hour of the Club World Cup semi-final against Kashima Antlers in mid-December.
58' On comes Asensio for Benzema, who has had a decent-ish night, I guess. Girona make a second change, Stuani making way for Valery.
57' Girona are appealing for a penalty after Marcelo goes in late on Lozano. Señor Martínez Munuera says no. Replays suggest he caught him, to be honest... But a VAR check says no, too. Hmm.
53' Benzema almost adds an assist to his two strikes, skipping towards the byline and feeding Vinicius at the near post, where the Brazilian can't quite turn his effort past Iraizoz in the Girona goal. Asensio is preparing to come on for Madrid.
48' Stuani is the first man into the book for treading on Llorente's toe. Free-kick to Real Madrid.
46' Right away, Real Madrid win a corner that Kroos delivers and Ramos gets his head to, but it's well off target from the captain. Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale are warming up for Los Blancos, incidentally. Nacho too.
Peeep! Back up and running in Catalonia.
The sides are back out at Montilivi, where Girona have made a half-time substitution, replacing Muniesa with Juanpe in defence.
Peep peep peeeep! That's half time at Montilivi, where, in all honesty, Real Madrid have been given a much tougher time of it in the first 45 than the scoreline suggests. Karim Benzema is in the form of his life, though, and two moments of sheer class from the Frenchman have been the difference between the sides. Madrid lead 6-2 on aggregate, and nothing short of four Girona goals will now prevent the visitors from marching on to the semi-finals.
45' That's a top stop by Keylor! The ball drops to Stuani just outside the six-yard box, and he thumps it towards goal, where the Real Madrid keeper does well to beat it out!
Vinicius receives the ball on the left and prods it five yards to Benzema, who looks up, picks his spot and curls it in off the post and into the far corner! 2-0 to Real Madrid!
42' Gooooal! Benzema! There's no stopping him right now.
40' Bernardo flicks the ball on to Stuani on the penalty spot, where the Uruguayan gets an outstretched leg to it, but can only turn it right down Keylor's gullet.
Should you be asking yourself why Benzema is in such fine fettle, by the way, this piece by AS journalist Carlos Forjanes might be up your alley.
37' Varane is down and in some pain after falling awkwardly as he headed clear. Despite initial concerns, though, he's up quickly and looks like he's alright. Moments later, Keylor drops a relatively routine ball towards the back stick and gifts Girona a corner... but, much to the Costa Rican's relief, it comes to nought.
34' Granell stings Keylor's palms with a fierce drive from 20 yards, before Girona are unhappy not to be given a corner when the loose ball is pinged back into the danger area by Carnero and flies behind off a mixture of Stuani and Varane. Ten minutes to go until half time. The hosts need three.
31' Oh my. Marcelo and Vinicius are forging a nice little understanding on the left. They exchange passes on the edge of the box to release the former into the box - via a cheeky nutmeg on Muniesa - but the left-back can't beat Iraizoz! Good save from the former Athletic keeper.What a lovely second goal that would have been.
29' Stuani almost has a tap-in! Girona set Lozano scampering at the Madrid defence on the right, and when he pings the ball low across the face of goal, only a vital touch by Keylor prevents the Uruguayan striker from having a simple chance to equalise.
Cutting in from the right, the Frenchman wraps his left foot round the ball from the edge of the box and fires past Iraizoz and into the far corner! What a vein of form he's in.
26' This time Benzema takes full advantage, though! 1-0 to Real Madrid!
25' Chance for Benzema... but he drags his shot just wide of the far post! It's actually Girona who begin on the attack, but when Porro loses it to Vinicius the Brazilian scampers forward 40 yards before feeding Benzema, who advances into the box but can't take advantage.
22' Marcelo feeds Vinicius in space on the left once more, and after a couple of lollypops, as Ron Atkinson would say (stepovers to you and me), he wins a corner... which comes to zip. Moments later, Vinicius and Marcelo again combine before the ball is played back to Kroos, who sends a tame strike trundling into Iraizoz's arms.
18' Muniesa and Lucas Vázquez both find themselves in a heap just by the sideline after a coming-together and, after a quick dab of the magic sponge, both look like they'll be fine.
13' Ufff. Pedro Porro is a very lucky boy. Carvajal fizzes a low cross towards the back post, where Porro beats Benzema to the ball and should clear - but gets himself in an almighty tangle and almost leaves the Real Madrid striker with a tap-in into an empty net. Benzema is taken by such surprise that he can't react quick enough, though. A real let-off for the hosts.
11' Marcelo releases Vinicius with a lovely reverse ball, and all of sudden the 18-year-old is scuttling into the Girona box with white shirts to pick out... but his cut-back is blocked, and the chance is lost. The hosts swiftly charge up the other end and get Lozano into a position to run at Varane, but the Frenchman dispossesses the Honduran in a fashion not unreminiscent of Bobby Moore on Jairzinho.
7' Just as I write that, Benzema is at the centre of Real Madrid's first moment of danger. He has confidence flowing through his veins, and it shows: pretty much in one movement, he pulls down a waist-height ball on the edge of the box, swivels and punches an effort towards Iraizoz's right-hand corner... but it's just wide.
5' A long ball almost gets Granell in a dangerous position and with the chance to run at the visiting backline, but Llorente does well to shepherd the ball behind and out for a goal-kick. It's been a bright start by Girona.
2' ...and he hits the crossbar with a looping effort towards the back post! The loose ball then falls to Ramalho on the edge of the penalty area, but his effort is scrambled clear. What a start that would have been for the hosts.
1' Lozano skips down the wing, past his man and into crossing space, but his delivery into the box is dealt with. However, Girona win it straight back and Porro earns a free-kick on the right. Granell over it...
Underway in Girona!
Team photos? Check. Handshakes? Check. Coin toss? Check. Ready to go. Who will go into tomorrow's semi-final pot alongside Valencia, Real Betis and Barcelona? Let's find out.
Out come the teams! Full house at Montilivi.
Tonight's referee is Juan Martínez Munuera, by the way.
As for this man... his two goals against Girona a week ago were followed by another at Espanyol on Sunday, leaving him on 10 for Real Madrid this season. Throw in his four for Spain, and his haul of 14 this term is more than recognised strikers Gonzalo Higuaín (eight), Álvaro Morata (nine), Radamel Falcao (11), Roberto Firmino (12), Edin Dzeko (12) and Romelu Lukaku (13).
And should you still be wondering how to tune in to tonight's game at Montilivi, incidentally, you may wish to make use of our guide on how and where to watch.
Whoever goes through tonight, they'll join Valencia, Real Betis and Barcelona in Friday's semi-final draw - an event which, of course, you can follow live right here on AS English.
After winning last week's first leg 4-2 at the Bernabéu, Real Madrid find themselves very much in pole position to go through at the expense of a Girona side taking part in their first ever Copa del Rey quarter-final, and history certainly bodes well for Los Blancos: they've progressed on both occasions that they've gone into the second leg of a Copa tie having won the home leg by such a scoreline. If Madrid do reach the semis, by the way, it'll be their first appearance at that stage of the competition since lifting the trophy in 2014, courtesy of THAT Bale goal against Barcelona.
Girona bench: Bono, Juanpe, Aleix García, Valery, Pere Pons, Alex Pachón and Portu.
Meanwhile, Eusébio Sacristán makes wholesale changes to his Girona side - seven in all - in a clear sign that, with the Catalans just three points off the relegation zone after a run of eight LaLiga games without a win, Sunday's top-flight trip to face Eibar is their top priority. Gorka Iraizoz, Jonás Ramalho, Marc Muniesa, Raúl García Carnero, Paik Seung-ho, Douglas Luiz and Anthony Lozano all come in for the Catalans.
Madrid boss Santiago Solari makes four changes to the side that beat Espanyol, with Keylor Navas, Marcelo, Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos coming into the XI. Sergio Ramos starts in central defence despite being forced off with a knee knock at the weekend, while Gareth Bale must wait a little longer for his first Copa appearance of the season as Solari keeps faith in the front three of Vinicius, Karim Benzema and Lucas Vázquez.
Real Madrid bench: Courtois, Nacho, Bale, Casemiro, Asensio, Isco and Reguilón.
Girona XI: Iraizoz, Ramalho, Bernardo, Muniesa, Carnero, Paik, Porro, Granell, Douglas, Stuani, Lozano.
And that team news has now dropped! Real Madrid XI: Keylor, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Ceballos, Llorente, Kroos, Vinicius, Benzema, Vázquez.
There's just over an hour to go until kick-off in Catalonia, and we'll bring you team news as soon as it comes in.
Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of tonight's Copa del Rey action at Montilivi, where Girona and Real Madrid will battle it out to be the fourth and final team to take its place in the semi-finals.
Girona vs Real Madrid: preview
Real Madrid will be out to reach the Copa del Rey last four for the first time in five years when they visit Girona in the second leg of the sides' quarter-final this evening (21:30 CET).
Not since they beat Barcelona at Mestalla to lift the trophy in 2014 have the 19-time winners made it to the semi-finals of Spain's domestic cup competition.
Real Madrid yet to lose Copa tie after winning home leg 4-2
Madrid go to Montilivi very much in the driving seat in the tie, after goals by Lucas Vázquez, Sergio Ramos (2) and Karim Benzema gave Santiago Solari's men a 4-2 first-leg advantage at the Bernabéu last week.
And Copa history is certainly on their side: they have progressed to the next round on both occasions that they have taken a such a lead into an away second leg.
Girona may prioritise LaLiga amid recent struggles
Meanwhile, Girona may be enjoying a club-record Copa run - they have never previously qualified for the quarter-finals - but they are also in the midst of a eight-game winless streak in LaLiga that has left them just three points clear of the relegation zone.
And with that in mind, coach Eusébio Sacristán is expected to prioritise their crucial top-flight trip to Eibar this weekend and name a much-changed side tonight.
Valencia, Betis and Barcelona already in last-four hat
The winners of the tie will join Valencia, Real Betis and Barcelona in Friday's semi-final draw, which you can follow right here on AS English.
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