BY DAN KARELL
Millions of football fans around the world cheered last night, not just because Barcelona beat Malaga in the Copa del Rey, but because the win sets up an epic semi-final clash with rivals Real Madrid.
It will be yet another two-legged installment of El Clasico, one of the most watched games in the world, and one that the global audience has had the pleasure of viewing on 12 occasions since the start of 2011.
Barcelona produced their typical magic on Thursday, as Pedro, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, and Lionel Messi all contributed goals for their team in a 4-2 win (6-4 on aggregate). Pique’s goal was a real collectors item, as he timed his run perfectly to beat Malaga’s offside trap, controlled the cross with his chest, and volleyed home with his left foot.
Malaga must have still thought they had a chance in the series, as they came back to tie from a goal down twice, before Barcelona pulled away late in the second half. Joaquin Sanchez and Roque Santa Cruz scored for the Andalusian club in the defeat.
Real Madrid, winners on aggregate over Valencia last Wednesday, will host the first leg of the semi-finals against Barcelona, which starts on Jan. 30.
Here are some other stories to get your Friday started:
CASILLAS FACING UP TO TWO MONTHS ON SIDELINES
Although Real Madrid was successful in advancing to the Copa Del Rey semi-finals, their cup bids have been dealt a serious blow, as club captain Iker Casillas has broken a bone in his left hand, putting him out of action for up to 60 days.
The goalkeeper, who suffered the injury in the 17th minute of Madrid’s 1-1 draw against Valencia, is now likely to miss the Copa Del Rey semi-finals, Champions League quarter-finals matches, and numerous league matches.
In his place, backup goalkeeper Antiono Adan will step back into the No. 1 role that he was handed just before the new year by manager Jose Mourinho.
YANN M’VILA COMPLETES MOVE TO RUSSIA
Still one of the brightest talents in France, midfielder Yann M’Vila has finally completed a move away from Rennes after months of speculation.
The 22-year-old has signed for Rubin Kazan of the Russian Premier League, spurning an offer from Queens Park Rangers and signing a deal reportedly worth £15 million over four years. The transfer, for a reported £9.6 million, is much lower than the reported amounts thrown around last summer, as Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain were interested in the young French international.
M’Vila had made 16 appearances this season in Ligue 1 for Rennes, recording one assist.
OLIMPIA AND DEFENSOR PLAY TO GOALLESS DRAW, TOLIMA WIN IN COPA LIBERTADORES
Paraguayan powerhouse Olimpia and Uruguayan club Defensor Sporting played to a 0-0 draw last night in Montevideo in a game that was highlighted by close chances from both sides.
Defensor’s veteran forward Ignacio Risso came close to scoring on a couple of occations, including one that came off the crossbar, but neither side could find the necessary breakthrough.
In the other action last night, Colombian side Deportes Tolima recorded an important 1-0 victory over Peru’s Universidad Cesar Vallejo in the Colombian town of Ibagué.
Tolima’s Rogerio Leichtweis scored the game’s only goal, finishing from close range after teammate Andres Andrade’s shot ricocheted off the post.
GHANA ATOP GROUP B WITH WIN, NIGER AND DR CONGO DRAW
Ghana’s path to the quarter-finals became that much easier on Thursday, with an important 1-0 win over African rivals Mali. Midfielder Mubarak Wakaso scored the lone goal of the match from the penalty spot in the 38th minute.
Mali came closest to tying the score when Seydou Keita’s free kick whizzed just wide of the goal. Ghana now sits in first-place in the group with four points, and will be in the knockout round of the tournament with a win next week against Niger.
In the other match of Group B, Niger and DR Congo played to a bore 0-0 draw. The scoreless match contained historic value, as it was the first-ever point for Niger in their African Cup of Nations history.
The draw ensures that all four teams can still advance to the next round of the tournament, setting up a thrilling final day of matches in the group.
Friday’s AFCON matches feature Zambia vs. Nigeria, and Burkina Faso vs. Ethiopia.
Belgium’s FA has condemned the recent actions of Eden Hazard, who earned a red card for kicking a ballboy in Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Swansea on Wednesday. (REPORT)
Just hours after his birth, Milan Pique Mebarak, the son of Gerard Pique and Shakira, has been registered as an official member of Barcelona. (REPORT)
German club Stuttgart have acquired Federico Macheda from Manchester United on loan until the end of the season. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? Excited to see more matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid? Do you see Madrid faltering without Casillas in the lineup? Do you think Yann M’Vila made the right decision?
Share your thoughts below.