(Spanish league) Real Madrid in cruise control

Sports | 1 Nov 2018 11:37 am

Real Madrid began life without Julen Lopetegui with a comfortable win in the Copa del Rey yesterday, when it was Barcelona that struggled to defeat a third-division opponent.

Barcelona needed an injury-time goal to win 1-0 at Cultural Leonesa, while Madrid cruised to a 4-0 victory over third-tier Melilla in a first-leg match in the round of 32.

Interim coach Santiago Solari was on the bench as Madrid won with goals from Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, Alvaro Odriozola and Cristo Gonzalez in a match played in Spain's small enclave in Africa.

It was Madrid's first game since Lopetegui was sacked on Monday, a day after the team was crushed 5-1 by Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium for its fifth loss in seven matches in all competitions.

Benzema scored his sixth goal of the season from close range after a low pass by Odriozola in the 28th minute, and Asensio added to the lead with a one-timer from near the penalty spot after a nice set up by youngster Vinicius Junior on the final play of a rainy first half. Vinicius Junior helped set up Odriozola's 79th-minute goal, his first with the club. Odriozola then made the cross for the injury-time goal by Gonzalez, also his first with the main squad.

Benzema was one of the few regular starters on the team, along with captain Sergio Ramos and goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Benzema and Ramos played only the first half, being replaced by Federico Valverde and Nacho Fernandez, respectively.

One of the best players in the match, Vinicius Junior nearly scored in the 72nd with a powerful shot that struck the crossbar.

BARCELONA SURVIVE

Ousmane Dembele led Barcelona's reserves in a difficult match in northern Spain, and it was his cross from a set piece that led to Clement Lenglet's winning header a minute into stoppage time.

Cultural Leonesa challenged the four-time defending champions throughout the match and had a few good chances to break the deadlock.

The hosts had midfielder Sergio Marcos sent off with a second yellow card after Barcelona's goal. -AP

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