Real Madrid pulled off one of their greatest wins in El Classico history, with a 3-1 drubbing of Barcelona to move through to the final of the 2013 Copa Del Rey.
The fact it came at the Nou Camp, in front of the Catalan club's fans, made it no doubt greater for the reigning Spanish champions, who ended Barca's chance at picking up the treble this year with their victory on Tuesday night.
Superstar winger Cristiano Ronaldo was once again the star for Madrid, netting two goals to give Los Blancos a commanding win.
What did we learn from Madrid's epic victory over their fiercest rivals, especially considering that these teams will meet again domestically on the weekend?
Read on to see the biggest takeaways from the Copa del Rey semifinals.
Cristiano Ronaldo continues to show his class in big games
Lionel Messi is the undisputed best player in the world, having won the past four Ballon d'Or awards, but Cristiano Ronaldo showed again tonight that he truly is a big-game player for Real Madrid.
The Portuguese winger netted two goals—both of which came after some excellent counterattacking play by Madrid—and continued to threaten Barca all night. His ability to float into the middle and give Los Blancos options wide was key again here, as Angel Di Maria and much of the Madrid midfield benefited from Ronaldo's brilliance on the ball.
Yet it was also the defensive work from Ronaldo that proved key, with the winger understanding his need to track back and stop the Barca attack. He covered well over his shoulder all night and did more work than he will get credit for—which for Ronaldo, is a very rare statement indeed.
Barcelona have been figured out
We saw glimpses of it in the UEFA Champions League last year with Chelsea. It reared its head again during La Liga when teams began to drop back and play five men across the top of the box—doing everything they could to get goal-side of Barcelona.
It appeared during Milan's stunning 2-0 win in the Champions League last week, and once again, the defensive focus that teams are having with great success turned up for Real Madrid here.
Barca attacked and attacked but simply could not blow Madrid's house down.
It seems, for now, that the Catalan club have been somewhat figured out.
Perhaps more correct is that teams have figured out how to deal with the tika-taka style of Barcelona. They understand the need to get goal-side and for their midfielders to drop back—trying to cover against the attacking nature of Barca's midfield.
But it is more than that: Teams have not only figured out how to defend Barcelona, they also now understand how to attack and score against Barca.
And it starts with attacking down the left flank on the counterattack—something that Chelsea, Milan and now Madrid have all shown to be effective.
The biggest question now is how do Barca respond to this? How do they adapt their passing game to be more direct and take more chances—thus resulting in more goal-scoring opportunities and, hopefully, more goals as well?
The answer to that is complex, but it seems Barca must simply get the ball into the box more often. Barca scored when they just landed the ball in the box and allowed Alba to run onto it and finish it. They didn't try to complete 15 passes just to get it through; Andres Iniesta simply lifted it over, and Alba was able to score a goal as a result.
Barca need to be aiming for the penalty spot more and the six-yard box on their crosses rather than the top of the box. At the moment, they are hitting the byline and crossing back to the top of the box—where all the defenders are waiting for them.
If Messi and company push further up and simply get the ball into the box, that should give them more space to try and get a shot on goal, but also free up their midfielders to take a strike from outside the box.
We saw in the second half how that nearly produced a goal for Barca, and they would be wise to try and push deeper into the box in the future.
How good is Raphael Varane?
Not many defenders in the world can claim a shut-down performance on Lionel Messi; even fewer can attest to doing it with such simplicity and skill.
I cannot think of any that have walked away with a 3-1 victory in hand, plus the game-clinching goal under their belt—all whilst still being a teenager.
Varane continues to impress at the back for Madrid and justified his selection again by Jose Mourinho with a stellar performance in both attack and defense.
The 19-year-old finished with three tackles, three interceptions and a near-perfect effectiveness rating when clearing the ball (per WhoScored.com). Plus he scored the third goal of the game, rising beautifully above the pack to tuck the ball just inside the right upright.
Yet his greatest achievement was shutting down Messi, which is something that few men in the world will ever be able to do.
The four-time World Player of the Year and incredible goal-scorer finished with no shots on target for the match, which seems simply ridiculous considering the goal-scoring prowess that Messi has.
Varane is one of the true rising stars of the beautiful game.
What did you make of Real Madrid's big win over Barca?
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