Football

Published: Wednesday January 29, 2014 MYT 6:47:02 AM
Updated: Wednesday January 29, 2014 MYT 6:47:02 AM

Real ease past Espanyol into King's Cup semis

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo fights for the ball with Espanyol's goalkeeper Kiko Casilla during their Spanish King's Cup match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo fights for the ball with Espanyol's goalkeeper Kiko Casilla during their Spanish King's Cup match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Juan Medina

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid set up a King's Cup semi-final against holders Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao when they beat Espanyol 1-0 in their quarter-final, second leg on Tuesday for a 2-0 aggregate success.

Real lost 2-1 to Atletico at their own Bernabeu stadium in last year's final and will be keen to avenge that bitter defeat, which meant they ended the season without any silverware, if they face their city rivals in the last four.

Atletico have a 1-0 advantage over Bilbao from last week's first leg at the Calderon and play at the Basque club's new San Mames arena on Wednesday.

Real were quickly into their stride on a chilly night in the Spanish capital and their Spain playmaker Xabi Alonso unlocked the Espanyol defence with a magisterial seventh-minute pass.

Forward Jese sped clear before clipping a clinical effort into the net past goalkeeper Kiko Casilla from a tight angle.

Casilla made several fine saves to deny Cristiano Ronaldo but any faint hope Espanyol had of getting back into the tie disappeared when midfielder Victor Sanchez earned a second yellow card and was sent off 13 minutes from time.

Real keeper and captain Iker Casillas barely touched the ball and Carlo Ancelotti's side have now gone eight matches without conceding a goal, a club record.

CLUB BEST

Casillas also set a new club best of 682 minutes without conceding a goal, overtaking the record set by Paco Buyo, who played for Real in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Real have come into form in recent weeks but have some difficult games coming up, including Sunday's La Liga visit to fourth-placed Bilbao and the two-legged Cup semi-final which takes place next week and the week after.

"It's a very tough calendar for us but I think we are on the right path," centre back Nacho Fernandez told reporters.

"It's key that we are keeping so many clean sheets," added the 24-year-old, whose younger brother Alex featured in midfield for Espanyol.

"We knew that we were playing against the best club in the world and it would be very tough," Alex, who played with Nacho in Real's B team before joining Espanyol, told Canal Plus.

"We gave a good account of ourselves and now we have to focus on the league," he added with Espanyol in mid-table.

On the other side of the draw, record King's Cup winners Barcelona have a 4-1 advantage when they host Levante at the Nou Camp on Wednesday and would play Real Sociedad or third-tier Racing Santander in the semi-finals.

Sociedad are 3-1 up thanks to their victory in San Sebastian last week and the Santander players have threatened to boycott Thursday's return in protest over unpaid wages.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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