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Madrid earn 1-1 draw at Barca in 1st leg of Copa del Rey semifinal

photo by AP photo

Real midfielder Marco Asensio (left) duels for the ball with Barcelona midfielder Arthur during the Copa del Rey semifinal first leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday.

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08th-Feb-2019       
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AP, Barcelona :
Leaning forward in his winter coat, Lionel Messi fidgeted with an empty water bottle as he watched his Barcelona teammates trailing their fiercest rivals.
But minutes before he decided to test his tender right leg, the chants at Camp Nou for "Messi! Messi!" turned into cheers as a little-used teammate scored an equalizer against Real Madrid.
Malcom's second-half goal left their Copa del Rey semifinal poised 1-1 after the first leg, with Madrid going home with a slight away-goal edge for the return game later this month.
"The tie is wide open, there is no clear favorite," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. "Given the caliber of the two sides, there is still a lot to be said."
Having picked up a right leg injury after scoring twice in a 2-2 draw with Valencia in league on Saturday, Messi stayed on the bench until the 64th minute. The Argentine then came on and didn't show any signs of an injury when he plucked the ball from Casemiro's boot, raced forward and was fouled by a scrum of Madrid's defenders near the area. He stayed on the turf to gather himself, before he smashed his free kick into the wall.
But other than an opening goal by Madrid forward Lucas Vazquez and Malcom's equalizer, this "clasico" was more of a clunker.
It was the first of three matches between Spain's most successful clubs in less than a month. The second leg of the semifinal in Madrid is on Feb. 27, just before their Spanish league game at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on March 3.
"Today he felt fine, but we thought it would be better that he waited until the second half," Valverde said about Messi. "When he went out he had the chance to be decisive. Each time he touched the ball we could see the reaction he provoked in our rivals."
In October, Messi missed Barcelona's 5-1 rout of Madrid in the league, a stinging loss that sealed the fate of former coach Julen Lopetegui.
This time out, Madrid made sure to set a strong tone from the opening, when it maintained possession long enough to get in front.

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