Madrid, Jan 25 (IANS) Sergio Ramos scored a brace as Real Madrid took a big step toward reaching the final four of the Copa del Rey with a 4-2 defeat of Girona in the first leg of their quarter-final tie.
Girona, who upset Atletico Madrid to get this far in the tournament, were without top striker Cristhian Stuani, but still managed to strike the first blow in front of 51,000 spectators at the Santiago Bernabeu here on Thursday, reports Efe.
Raul Garcia’s cross found an unmarked Choco Lozano in front of the Real Madrid goal and the Honduran scored to put Girona up 1-0 in the 7th minute.
The initiative gradually passed to Real Madrid and Casemiro was the first to threaten the Girona goal, followed by Marcelo, whose shot was turned aside by keeper Gorka Iraizoz.
The third time turned out to be lucky, as Alvaro Odriozola raced down the flank and dropped the ball back to Lucas Vazquez for the equalizer in the 18th minute.
Real Madrid pressed for more with Vinicius Junior setting the tone and while he never found the net, he drew a foul in the area to set up Ramos’ first of the night, a strike from the penalty spot with three minutes left in the first half.
The hosts slowed a little bit after the break, opening the door to Girona, who began to create opportunities.
Past the hour mark, keeper Thibaut Courtois denied Choco’s bid for a second goal, but the ensuing corner produced a penalty on a hand-ball resulting from contact between two Real Madrid players.
Alex Granell converted from the spot to leave the sides knotted at 2-2 in the 66th minute.
With the contest in the balance, it was again Ramos to the rescue, getting his head to a Marcelo cross to put the Blancos ahead 3-2 in the 77th minute.
The fourth goal came just three minutes later, when Karim Benzema — who squandered several chances in the first half — scored off an assist from Vinicius.