Jese Rodriguez's goal sees Real Madrid into Cup semis
AFP Thursday, January 30, 2014, 12:25 am TWN
MADRID -- Real Madrid eased into the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 1-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday to progress 2-0 on aggregate.
Jese Rodriguez got the only goal of the game after just eight minutes as Madrid set a club record by not conceding for the eighth consecutive game.
Espanyol keeper Kiko Casilla managed to keep the score down as he frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo on a number of occasions.
However, it was to no avail as the visitors couldn't find a way through and ended with 10 men after Victor Sanchez was sent off late on for two bookable offences.
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti praised the excellent start to 2014 made by his side's central defenders as they sealed an eighth win in January without conceding a single goal.
"I think that the system gives us confidence. We have good defensive balance because the whole team works to recover the ball quickly and the central defenders have been playing at a very high level."
Real will now face Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao in the last four with city rivals Atletico taking a 1-0 advantage into their second leg against the Basques on Wednesday.
Los Blancos also face high-flying Athletic in the league on Sunday and Ancelotti insisted that despite Jese netting the winner in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, the Welshman will start at San Mames if he is fit.
"If Bale is fine then he will play, but that is not to say that Jese isn't another option because he is very dangerous at the moment.
"I don't care who we meet (in the next round) because both teams are in very good form. We all know everything about Atletico Madrid, but Athletic are playing very well too and it will be a very difficult and important tie."
Jese continued his case for more first team action as he confidently fired them ahead after being found by a fine long-range ball by Xabi Alonso.
Casilla more than redeemed himself for the rest of the half as he made a series of saves, most notably from Ronaldo and Angel di Maria.
The visitors began to provide a threat of their own towards the end of the half and Pizzi was unlucky to see his sweetly-struck volley fly over the bar a minute before the break.
Casilla denied Ronaldo once more with another excellent stop at the beginning of the second period.
However, it was Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas who made the headlines in the second-half as he broke another club record by extending his own personal run without conceding a goal past 11 hours.
And any doubt over the result of the tie was ended when Sanchez was shown a second yellow card for handball 13 minutes from time.
MOST POPULAR OF THIS SECTION