Real Madrid wins Copa del Rey

Updated: April 21, 2011, 7:38 AM ET
Associated Press

VALENCIA, Spain -- Cristiano Ronaldo headed home the winner in extra time as Real Madrid ended an 18-year Copa del Rey trophy drought with a 1-0 victory over biggest rival Barcelona on Wednesday.

Ronaldo guided Angel Di Maria's 103rd-minute pass back across goal and past the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto into the top corner as Madrid won silverware for the first time since a 2007 Spanish league title.

"It was a very tough game, Barcelona played very well, but, as you know, whoever scores wins," Ronaldo said. "We are very happy, Madrid had not won this cup for many years."

Coach Jose Mourinho bowed before King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia as he received his mini-trophy, while Madrid goalkeeper Casillas hugged the pair before using the king as support to climb up on a support and hoist the trophy high.

"A great game of football," Mourinho said after bringing silverware to the club in his first season, while Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola saw his side fail for the first time with a trophy on the line under his stewardship.

"It's always better to win than lose, but we have to recover because that's life. Life has its knocks too," Guardiola said. "Will we pick ourselves up from this? Of course."

Barcelona gets its first chance next Wednesday when the teams meet for the first of a two-legged Champions League semifinal series.

Madrid dominated the first half and then relied on Casillas' second-half stops as Barcelona took control in an electric atmosphere at the Mestalla Stadium.

"We proved to everyone we can beat any team we want," said Casillas, who helped Spain win its first World Cup last year.

Madrid's 18th domestic cup also ends a six-game winless run against Barcelona, which lost for only the 10th time in its 35th final appearance.

The winning players practically roared after the final whistle sounded.

"We are very happy, because we knew that we could," said Di Maria, who was sent off late as Madrid finished with 10 men against Barca for the second time in five days. The red card had no influence on the outcome.

"[The key] was the force of the group and the way we wanted to win this game."

Madrid fullback Marcelo played the ball into the left side of the penalty area and Di Maria beat Daniel Alves to the ball. The Argentine forward found Ronaldo at the far post for the winner at the site of both clubs' last cup win.

Madrid took the second of four meetings in 18 days between the fierce rivals; they still must play the two-legged Champions League semifinal.

Barcelona had won three of the five previous cup finals between the two, including the last one in 1990.

The bruising matchup led to a number of run-ins between players who normally represent Spain together. David Villa and Alvaro Arbeloa exchanged shoves while even a frustrated Lionel Messi had trouble hiding his emotions for Barca.

The charged atmosphere for the ninth cup final at Mestalla might have played a hand in a frantic and physical first half dominated by Madrid, which disrupted Barcelona's cool with constant pressure. The Catalans didn't manage a shot on goal until the second half as they abandoned their slick passing game for long balls.

With Javier Mascherano filling in for Carles Puyol at center back, Barcelona's defense looked unsure and Madrid forced turnovers with constant upfield pressure.

And Madrid created chances off the break as expected, with Mesut Oezil picking up where he left off in Saturday's 1-1 draw by creating Madrid's best opportunities. But the Germany playmaker missed his own in the 11th minute after hesitating.

Pinto remained alert as he stopped Ronaldo's hard shot in the 36th. Madrid nearly capped its strong first half in the 44th as Pepe got over Daniel Alves to meet Oezil's cross, but his header slammed off the near post.

Barcelona was more composed after the restart as it worked the ball around to set up Villa's dangerous shot in the 51st. Messi and Daniel Alves neatly combined minutes later as the Spanish champions rediscovered the possession game that helps them thrive.

Mourinho, meanwhile, screamed at Ronaldo for skirting his defensive duties.

Messi was booked for blocking a free kick in the 64th as the teams' two stars, who have now combined for 90 goals this season, found it hard to show off their offensive talents.

Until Ronaldo won it.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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