Madrid & Barca both win semifinals


Real Madrid and Barcelona remain on course to face each other in the final of the Spanish Cup after both claimed semifinal first leg victories on Wednesday. Karim Benzema scored the only goal of a tempestuous match to give Real Madrid a narrow 1-0 victory at holders Sevilla in the first leg of their semifinal. Meanwhile, a devastating first-half display set Barcelona on their way to a 5-0 home win over Almeria, leaving the second leg looking like a formality. Benzema, whose place in the Madrid side is under threat following the loan signing of Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor, settled the contest at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in the 15th minute, dribbling past one defender before cutting inside and curling home a left-foot shot. However, the home side were adamant they had levelled on the stroke of half-time when Luis Fabiano rounded goalkeeper Iker Casillas, only for Raul Albiol to clear the ball off the line. Sevilla players crowded the referee and his assistant claiming the ball had cross the line, but the officials waved away their protests and TV replays proved inconclusive. Both sides had chances to score after the break, notably Real when Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo combined to somehow miss from close range. The match finished amid ugly scenes with Casillas holding his head after being struck from a missile thrown from the crowd. The result proved a timely present for Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho on his 48th birthday and also edged the club closer to the final of a competition they last won in 1993. Should Real avoid defeat in the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, they will almost certainly face old rivals Barcelona for the first time in a final since 1990. Two goalkeeping errors handed Lionel Messi and David Villa early goals in the first half to give Barca a perfect start and some more Messi magic made it 3-0 by just the 16th minute. Pedro headed home a Xavi free-kick in the 31st-minute for their fourth goal and a flowing move resulted in Seydou Keita adding a fifth with just two minutes remaining. Elsewhere, Serie A leaders AC Milan are through to the semifinals of the Italian Cup after a 2-1 victory at Sampdoria. Two goals from Brazilian Alexandre Pato earned victory for the visitors, and ensured Milan striker Antonio Cassano made a winning return to Genoa, less than a month after being effectively sacked by Sampdoria after falling out with the club’s president. Pato struck twice in the space of five first-half minutes, both times being set-up by new Dutch signing Urby Emanuelson. The home side pulled a goal back early in the second half when Massimo Maccarone netted on his debut following his move from Palermo, but Milan held on to reach the last four of the competition. Milan were joined in the last four by holders and city rivals Inter Milan, who beat Napoli 5-4 on penalties, after 90 minutes and extra time went by without either side scoring a goal. Palermo secured their place in the last four on Tuesday, also going through on penalties against Parma, while Juventus and Roma will face each other on Thursday for the final remaining place. The semifinal line-up for the German Cup has also now been decided following Wednesday’s remaining last eight matches. Thomas Mueller scored twice as holders Bayern Munich cruised to a 4-0 victory at second division side Alemannia Aachen. However, there were shocks in the two other matches on Wednesday with second division Energie Cottbus and Duisburg putting out Bundesliga sides Hoffenheim and Kaiserslautern. Schalke sealed their place in the semifinals with a 3-2 extra time victory over Nuremberg on Tuesday.

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