Barca and Real eke out tough victories against minnows in Spanish Cup ties - GulfToday

Barca and Real eke out tough victories against minnows in Spanish Cup ties

Gareth-Bale

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale (left) vies for the ball with Unionistas’ Juan Gongora during their Copa del Rey (King’s Cup) match on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Spanish League’s heavyweights Barcelona and Real  Madrid survived scares against their third tier minnows in the  Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Barca had to rally to eke out a narrow 2-1 win against Ibiza while Real dug deep for a 3-1 victory against Unionistas de Salamanca.

Barca and Real are 44 and 56 places above their respective rivals, who came close to springing  the biggest surprise of the season with unlikely victories against the Spanish stalwarts before ending up as losers.

Antoine Griezmann saved Barca blushes who were playing sans Lionel Messi, who was rested.

He scored twice in the second half, including a 94th-minute winner, after Pep Caballe had put the hosts ahead at Can Misses.

Discomfort was more fleeting more Madrid, who conceded an equaliser in the second half following a brilliant run and finish from Unionistas’ Alvaro Romero, only to restore their advantage five minutes later.

Juan Gongora turned the ball into his own net after Gareth Bale, back from injury and illness, scored his first goal for his club since Sept.1.

Bale has again been linked with a move away from Madrid this month and his celebrations were notably muted.

But at the end, Unionistas fans were waving their scarves with pride just as Ibiza’s supporters had applauded their team off, even though Griezmann had dashed their hopes just moments before.

Only last week, Barcelona topped Deloitte’s annual Football Money League with a total revenue of $959.3m for 2018/19 while Madrid were just behind, the world’s second richest club with $864m.

Unionistas, meanwhile, only came into existence in 2013, launched by their own supporters after UD Salamanca went out of business.

It was a dream draw to get Real Madrid but they almost had to move grounds because their Las Pistas one stand and lighting that needed upgrading.

Ibiza are even younger, having formed in 2015 and played in the fifth tier only three years ago.

Griezmann’s rescue act was cruel but important for Barcelona’s new coach Quique Setien, who enjoyed a 1-0 victory in his first game in charge against Granada on Sunday but could hardly afford a loss of this magnitude so early in his tenure.

- Snapping at their heels - For all the dominance of the ball, there was a lack of cutting edge against Ibiza, who restricted their star-studded opponents to one shot in the first half, Barca’s lowest in any game they have played this season.

With a trip to Valencia to come in La Liga on Saturday, Setien left Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique out of the squad. Youngsters Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Carles Perez all started.

Ibiza were at their visitors from the off, closing the gaps and snapping at their heels. If the home side’s aim was to contain, they went one better by taking the lead in the ninth minute.

Puig was at fault, caught napping by Caballe, who finished off Javi Perez’s cross.

Twice Ibiza almost added a second as Angel Rodado scored after bundling through Clement Lenglet but too enthusiastically, with the goal chalked off. Then Rai Nascimento hit the post after being played in by Javi Lara.

Ibiza’s pressing lost intensity in the second half and in the 72nd minute, Griezmann equalised. Frenkie de Jong’s reverse pass was perfectly weighted, with Griezmann able to hit first time on the turn.

Ibiza looked set for an extra 30 minutes but Griezmann struck again. Jordi Alba slid him through down and his finish flew across German Parreno and found the far corner.

Agencies