Benzema brings Real Madrid back from the brink! Winners, losers and ratings from emotional Copa del Rey derby

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Benzema Vini Copa del Rey semi-final 16:9
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Real Madrid overcame another Copa del Rey deficit on Thursday, with Rodygo, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior grabbing late goals in a 3-1 derby win.

We've seen this imagery before: Karim Benzema unmarked at the far post, a deflected cross zipped onto his right foot, no chance for the goalkeeper to make a stop. Real Madrid suddenly, improbably, in the lead.

Benzema's extra-time winner gave Real Madrid a 2-1 advantage over Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarter-final, and Los Blancos added another for good measure as they repeated their come-from-behind feat from a week ago against Villarreal.

Everything looked dire for nearly 80 minutes, before Real Madrid woke up to topple their rivals in an emotional derby that had once again turned ugly off the pitch when Vinicius Junior was subjected to pre-game racism from fans .

Atletico had deservedly grabbed the opener, working a wonderful move that ended with an easy tap-in for Alvaro Morata. Everything seemed geared towards a Diego Simeone masterclass. Atletico had less possession, more fouls, and only one shot on target.

But Real Madrid were much-changed after the break. Rodyrgo eventually scored the equaliser, winding through the Atletico defence before poking the ball past Jan Oblak. And then came Benzema in extra-time, inverting an otherwise tepid performance with an almost predictable late winner. Vinicius Junior added to the lead with a delightful run and finish to cap things off - complete with a joyful celebration just as he had done in September.

It all evoked memories of Real Madrid's sweet 2021-22 campaign, Benzema and Co. disappearing for long passages before popping up with three crucial goals to salvage a result.

  1. The Winners
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    The Winners

    Karim Benzema:

    There was nothing really surprising about Benzema's performance. And that's really the way it should be. The French international disappeared for long stretches and often found himself knocking the ball around near the centre-circle. Then again, it's part of the Benzema cliche to lull the watcher and opposition into a false sense of security. Of course, he provided the inevitable winner. It wasn't a complicated finish - Benzema was unmarked at the far post with half of the goal to aim for. But it was a thoroughly convincing strike and yet another knockout decider.


    What a goal. Real Madrid badly needed a lift when Rodrygo entered the fold, and he provided it. The Brazilian received the ball 30 yards from goal before ducking and weaving through five defenders and angling his shot in at the near post. It was a clever finish to top off a winding run, a goal worthy of any big game. He almost added a second five minutes later, curling a shot just wide of the post with Jan Oblak struggling to reach it.

    Vinicius Junior

    Vinicius had been on the end of vile racist abuse Thursday morning, with a small subsection Atletico fans hanging an effigy of the Brazilian in a horrific act. It is only appropriate, then, that Vinicius produced his best performance since the World Cup break here. He missed two chances in the second half, including one miscue from just six yards out. But in extra time, with the game wide open, he embarked on a signature run, evading two defenders before threading the ball past Oblak. There was a real relief to his celebration, a passionate fist pump followed by the usual dance. It was wonderful to watch.

  2. The Losers
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    The Losers

    Ferland Mendy:

    The miserable season continues. Mendy has endured a tough campagin so far, maligned for defensive errors and criticised for his lack of adventure in the final third. He didn't really contribute at either end Thursday night. He lost track of Molina on Atletico's opener, and failed to connect with Vinicius going forward. Madrid were rumoured to have agreed a deal for Fran Garcia this afternoon. Hopefully some competition will be the boost Mendy needs.

    Fede Valverde:

    What's wrong with Valverde? The midfielder was among Europe's best before the World Cup, in fine goalscoring form while also serving as a creative force from right-wing. But his performances since have been lacking. Valverde was particularly poor here, and sort of encapsulated Madrid's first-half struggles. His touch was lacking, his deliveries under-hit. There were some encouraging moments - and he never made the wrong pass - but he looks a bit lost at the moment.

    Stefan Savic:

    Savic picked up a silly second yellow card for a rash challenge on Eduardo Camavinga, which doomed his side. Atleti were already struggling but had survived by remaining disciplined. Savic's silly tackle threw everything away. He's now been sent off against both Real Madrid and Barcelona within the span of two weeks, which isn't very good.

  3. Real Madrid Ratings: Defence
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    Real Madrid Ratings: Defence

    Thibaut Courtois (6/10):

    A reliable performance in goal. Couldn't do much about the Atleti opener, and make a couple of good saves to keep his team in it.

    Nacho (7/10):

    A solid showing from the veteran. He's not been perfect, but Nacho is a decent squad player in Dani Carvajal's absence. Maybe Madrid don't need another right-back after all.

    Eder Militao (8/10):

    Somehow missed a header with the goal gaping. Made up for it with an excellent defensive second half. One wonderful surging run in the 94th minute almost got Madrid a winner before extra-time.

    Antonio Rudiger (6/10):

    Better from the German international, who has really struggled of late. Tough in a tackle, and didn't get drawn into any silly duels despite the provocations of the opposition.

    Ferland Mendy (5/10):

    Was having a poor game before being substituted with a hamstring issue. Lost track of Molina on the Atleti goal.

  4. Midfield
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    Luka Modric (7/10):

    Lots of nice passes and a few crucial interceptions. A classic showing.

    Eduardo Camavinga (8/10):

    Started at the No.6 before moving to left-back after Mendy went off. Positionally unspectacular, but reliable as ever on the ball. Won loads of tackles as Atleti pushed for an equaliser in extra-time and he filled in for Mendy in defence. If Mendy is seriously injured, Camavinga might have to play there more consistently - which doesn't appear to be a massive problem.

    Toni Kroos (7/10):

    Classy on the ball, and sprayed some lovely passes. Looked leggy, though, and needed his substitution badly.

  5. Attack
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    Federico Valverde (5/10):

    Another disappointing showing from the Uruguayan. His delivery was particularly lacking.

    Karim Benzema (8/10):

    Dropped deep to get involved, and linked up well. Then scored the winner.

    Vinicius Junior (8/10):

    Came close to a goal early after a neat link-up with Benzema. One outrageous piece of skill almost got his side an extra time winner. Capped things off with a lovely goal and passionate celebration.

  6. Subs & Manager
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    Subs & Manager

    Dani Ceballos (8/10):

    Brought on for Mendy, and played as a left sided No.8. Kept the ball moving, got into some advanced areas, made a case for a regular starting spot.

    Rodrygo (8/10):

    Scored a brilliant goal to equalise, and almost had a second five minutes later. Changed the game when Madrid seemed likely to lose.

    Marco Asensio (6/10):

    Not really involved. Should have set up Benzema for another Madrid goal.

    Alvaro Odriozola (N/A)

    Good to see him get a run out.

    Mario Martin (N/A):

    Not enough time to make an impact. But a valuable few minutes for the teenager.

    Carlo Ancelotti (7/10):

    Was made to look like a poor manager in the first half, then a genius in the second. Ancelotti worked with what he had here, forced to play a centre-midfielder at left-back for a long spell and 33-year-old centre-back at right-back. It was all a bit messy in the first half, but he got a far better showing out of his team in the second. Another cup comeback isn't bad.