Ibiza and Unionistas died with their boots on
I like this new one-leg format of the Copa del Rey, with its vibrant rhythm of goals and emotions.
Spanish Federation president, Luis Rubiales, has introduced a model similar to that of the English FA Cup, but not exactly the same. The semi-finals will still be played over two-legs, while in these earlier rounds of the competition, the clubs from lower divisions will always be given the home advantage against higher ranked clubs (if both clubs are in the same division, then it will depend on the draw).
In England home advantage is down purely to the draw in all cases and if the game ends in a tie, it means a replay at the ground of the away team from the first leg. The semi-finals are played over one tie, with both fixtures played at the neutral venue of Wembley.
Barcelona and Madrid's laboured victories
The new format in Spain gives new life to clashes between major and minor teams, as there is no possibility for the big clubs to hang on to crush their lower-ranked opponents in the return leg as before. And like that, we saw Ibiza give Barcelona a decent fight until the death on Wednesday. The visitors were 1-0 behind for more than 70 minutes and only avoided extra time thanks to a 94th minute winner from Greizmann.
Similarly, we also saw Unionistas keep the game alive until injury time against a Real Madrid side that was not at full strength, but still made up of 13 internationals (including replacements). Madrid were always ahead but could not close out the game until extra time. Both Ibiza and Unionistas died with their boots on. Their fans will be proud and we all got to experience four hours of pure emotion.
The great prized scalp of the night, of course, fell to Segunda side Tenerife, who saw themselves past Valladolid (2-1). But the most striking incident was Barcelona’s troubles against Ibiza, with Setién already looking a little damaged. His team had an hour of floating about without managing to score, which added to the 1,002 passes the other day against Granada (1-0) that also rendered such little reward. It is a worrying sight for their new coach.
Madrid, meanwhile, had several players acting like the game against Unionistas had already been won, with Areola making some tremendous saves when the score was at 2-1. Discounting those players who were asleep, the one that stood out most for me was Brahim – not only for his two goals, but also for his determination to seize his opportunity on the night.
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