Eric Abidal netted a rare, but superbly-taken goal to give Barcelona a 2-1 comeback win at holders Real Madrid in their Copa del Rey quarter-final first-leg match on Wednesday as Pep Guardiola’s side tightened their stranglehold over their rivals.
The France fullback, who extended his contract with the Spanish and European champions on Monday, galloped on to a floated Lionel Messi pass 13 minutes from time and calmly slotted past Iker Casillas to give last year’s runners-up the advantage for next week’s second leg in Barcelona.
Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo had put the home side ahead with a breakaway goal in the 11th minute, before Barca captain Carles Puyol flung himself at Xavi’s corner to power a header past Spain teammate Casillas for a 49th-minute equalizer.
“We won this game, but we have to be careful in the return match because that’s going to be another tough test,” said Abidal, whose goal was only the fourth of his career.
“I seem to be a Cup player,” the 32-year-old former Olympique Lyonnais player said. “I scored in the Cup back in France and I seem to be doing it again in Spain.”
The winners of the tie will face Valencia or their city neighbors Levante UD, who were scheduled to play their quarter-final first leg yesterday.
On the other side of the draw, headers from the towering Fernando Llorente and the diminutive Iker Muniain gave Athletic Bilbao a 2-0 win at home to RCD Mallorca in their quarter-final first-leg match earlier on Wednesday.
If the Basques can hold on in Mallorca next week they will play 2006 champions RCD Espanyol or third-tier Mirandes, who are through to the quarters for the first time.
Mirandes stunned Espanyol by opening a two-goal lead in their first-leg match on Tuesday, before the home side struck three times in four minutes to secure a 3-2 lead for the second leg in Miranda de Ebro.
Real coach Jose Mourinho sprung a couple of surprises in his starting lineup for the fourth of a possible eight meetings between Real and Barca this season.
He included Portuguese compatriot Ricardo Carvalho in central defense, despite the Portugal international not having played for several months because of injury.
He also deployed Hamit Altintop at rightback, handing the Turkey international only his third start of the season.