King's Cup: Real spot on while Barcelona held to cup draw
Madrid: Barcelona were held 1-1 by Celta Vigo while Real Madrid moved one step closer to securing a King's Cup quarter-final spot with a 3-0 victory over Numancia on Thursday.
Gareth Bale, who started his first match in over three months, scored the first goal for Real against the second division side from the penalty spot in the 35 minute mark. The hosts remained in contention until they had midfielder Pape Diamanka sent off for a second booking on the hour.
The second division side still managed to trouble the current La Liga champions with 10 men but Real took the game away with two late strikes.
Isco converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute and Borja Mayoral scored a header in stoppage time to give Numancia a near impossible task in the second leg at the Bernabeu on January 10.
"I'm happy we kept a clean sheet. We scored two goals from the penalty spot but they all count," Real defender Nacho Fernandez told reporters.
"They hit the crossbar but overall we were strong in defence and didn't suffer too much."
But it was not rosy for Barcelona as they have to get their heads down and look do the job all over again to move into the next round when they host Celta at the Nou Camp. They'll have to win the match or at least get a goalless draw to progress into the next round.
Barca forward Jose Arnaiz poked in Andre Gomes's low cross to complete a sweeping counter-attack and put Barca ahead in the 15th minute, scoring for the third Cup game in a row.
Denmark international Pione Sisto levelled for Celta in the 31st, smashing the ball into the roof of the net after Iago Aspas had hit the underside of the crossbar.
Barcelona's record signing Ousmane Dembele made a second half appearance — his first since rupturing his hamstring in September. The Frenchman did it in style and almost won it for his side but his low shot was saved by Celta goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez.
Barca hit the woodwork twice, Sergio Busquets crashing a shot against the bar and Sergio Roberto striking the post in stoppage time while Turkish international Emre Mor went close to grabbing a winner for Celta.
Coach Ernesto Valverde made seven changes to the Barca side that beat Real Madrid 3-0 in their last game while Celta, coached by former Barca assistant Juan Carlos Unzue, fielded a full-strength team.
"When a coach makes changes you always run a risk and if you lose people will say it's because you made too many but I'm happy with the squad I have," Valverde said.
"Celta pressed high and took risks, they were dangerous on the counter-attack, but so were we. In the first 20 minutes after the break we could have won the game, but we didn't take our chances. Despite that, I'm happy with our performance."
Leganes beat Villarreal 1-0 at home and Levante won 2-1 at Espanyol.