Barcelona won the opening leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal against Real Madrid after suffering back-to-back losses.
At the Bernabeu, despite the visitors having the majority of the possession and chances, an own goal by Eder Militao separated the teams.
After losing to Manchester United in the Europa League and Almeria in La Liga, Barca would be super excited over the outcome.
After grabbing the lead, Xavi’s team played aggressive defense, and their focus gained them a slim advantage going into the second leg at the Nou Camp on April 5.
Although Barca is in first place in La Liga, Xavi’s team will have been vulnerable going into the game after being eliminated from Europe and suffering a shocking league loss the previous weekend.
Five changes were made to the starting lineup by the former midfielder, including a completely different back four.
Vinicius Jr.’s headlock on Frenkie de Jong in the first exchange was memorable, but it was the visitors who eventually claimed the lead—and under absurd circumstances.
Franck Kessie’s shot during Barca’s opening attempt was stopped by Thibaut Courtois, but it rebounded off Militao and went into the goal.
In attempting to clear the ball off the line, his colleague center back Nacho failed to spare his teammate’s blushes.
Although Raphinha went ahead of schedule, he wasn’t interfering with the game, and Kessie was level, the video assistant referee overturned the initial offside ruling.
In 23 league games this season, Barca’s defense has only given up eight goals, and despite significant personnel changes, the backline held firm once more on Thursday.
Without injured Robert Lewandowski and Ousmane Dembele, the visitors’ assault was generally impotent, though they easily could have added a second goal if Ansu Fati hadn’t stopped teammate Kessie’s goal-bound attempt.
A former Premier League player, ex-Leeds winger Raphinha, was mostly unnoticed, as was former Manchester City attacker Ferran Torres, who joined the Catalan club last January.
The club Xavi is now guiding know how to get the job done – at least in domestic football. But, the performance had few characteristics of the great Barca side Xavi coordinated as a player.
Madrid dominated possession until the very end, but to keep Barca from advancing toward a domestic trophy triple, they will need to overcome the gap at the home of their fiercest rivals.
Barcelona Star Frenkie De Jong Battle It Out With Vinicius Jr
When Barcelona and Real Madrid faced off in the Copa del Rey, Frenkie de Jong and Vinicius Jr. got into a heated altercation.
With Barcelona leading by seven points in the La Liga title race, Madrid hosted their El Clasico adversaries in the first leg of their semifinal match.
Yet, the first half saw more than enough fighting between the teams as De Jong and Vinicius Jr. collided after the Dutch midfielder’s frantic run.
De Jong deflected a challenge from the venerable Luka Modric, skipped by Toni Kroos in the middle of the field, and kept possession of the ball.
De Jong attempted to maneuver around the Real Madrid star as a result of the Brazilian’s block, but Vinicius reacted by grabbing him by the neck and knocking him to the ground.
The two then fell to the ground in a heap with Vinicius holding the Manchester United target in a headlock.
The Madrid forward received a yellow card as a result, much to the 22-year-old’s displeasure.
On Twitter, Man Utd supporters were closely following the incident since De Jong was still being connected to a prospective transfer to the team to replace previous manager Erik ten Hag.
But opinions on whether or not the 25-year-old would succeed in the Premier League were divided due to his role in the brawl.