MADRID: Coach Pep Guardiola celebrated a perfect 41st birthday after seeing his Barcelona team beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the Spanish capital in the first leg of their domestic cup quarter-final.
Madrid had beaten their old rivals in last season’s cup final but Barcelona hit back to win this time after going behind to an 11th-minute strike from Cristiano Ronaldo on an assist from Karim Benzema.
Barcelona took control for the rest of the first period but an Alexis Sanchez header came back off a post and Andres Iniesta shot wide of an open goal. Four minutes into the second half, however, they equalised through Carles Puyol’s header to a Xavi corner.
Iniesta and Benzema both saw efforts come back off the bar and post respectively before French defender Eric Abidal, who on Monday signed a one-year contract extension, popped up on the end of Lionel Messi’s perceptive chip to shoot the winner past Iker Casillas. It was only his second goal in five seasons at the club.
Jose Mourinh’s gamble of recalling Ricardo Carvalho after 21 games out through injury and handing Hamit Altintop only his third start as a Madrid player at right-back thus went unrewarded.