Karim Benzema scores two more, Raphael Varane stands tall as Madrid reach Copa semis
Real Madrid eased into the Copa del Rey semi-finals with two sweet Karim Benzema strikes setting up a 3-1 win on the night and 7-3 progression on aggregate.
Madrid survived Girona's fast start and matched their opponents' intensity. Second, two further pieces of evidence that Benzema is the most in-form No. 9 around at the moment secured passage to the last four. Marcos Llorente's performance and goal in midfield was another big plus. Coach Santiago Solari now has almost a full squad to choose from with January's injury "crisis" having cleared.
Keylor Navas looked quite shaky between the posts in the first half, and Girona's consolation goal from Pedro Porro in the second half was avoidable. Overall though, this really was a comfortable night for all involved with Madrid.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Solari would have been especially happy with how his side neutralised Girona's fast start and maintained control of the tie. His insistence that Benzema keep playing despite a fractured finger has really paid off. Madrid are coming to the boil nicely at this stage of the season, not for the first time in recent years.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Keylor Navas, 6 -- On his return to fitness, Solari's Copa keeper Navas was twice fortunate when misjudging deep crosses, especially when saved by the crossbar in the second minute. His Kicking was also off but his reflexes looked okay when saving from Cristhian Stuani just before half-time.
DF Dani Carvajal, 7 -- Pushed forward well and was involved in a nice one-two ahead of Benzema's first goal.
DF Sergio Ramos, 6 -- Straight back into the XI despite the knee knock at weekend, and did not look fully ready when twice losing one-on-ones to Girona forwards in opening minutes. Taken off early in the second half.
DF Raphael Varane, 8 -- Solidest of Madrid's defenders on the night -- especially when twice making excellent early interventions to save situation after slips by his central defensive partner.
DF Marcelo, 7 -- Prominent in attack and should really have scored after a lovely link-up with Vinicius Junior but his shot was saved by Girona keeper Gorka Iraizoz. Often suffers against Girona's system, and an unnecessary rash challenge on Anthony Lozano in second half looked a possible penalty.
MF Dani Ceballos, 6 -- Frustrating game with Ceballos giving up possession too easily, sometimes in dangerous areas allowing Girona to break, as happened for the Catalans' goal on the night.
MF Marcos Llorente, 8 -- In his first start of 2019, the youngster was excellent particularly in matching his opponents' energy and intensity during the opening stages. Scored Madrid's third goal by cleverly making space and an angle to arrow a low shot into the far bottom corner from 25 yards.
MF Toni Kroos, 6 -- Played the whole game in second gear due to the situation in the tie, but looks back to full fitness now after his recent absence.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 7 -- The Solari favourite showed his good and bad sides in one second-half moment when an excellent run and pass began a move which ended with the winger hitting the post from three yards with the goal gaping.
FW Karim Benzema, 9 -- Continued his really super recent form -- his goals were expertly taken, one with each boot, one from either side of the penalty area, both unstoppable for the Girona keeper. Now the sixth highest goalscorer in all Madrid club history with 209.
FW Vinicius Junior, 7 -- Starting his eighth straight game for Madrid, the 18 year old had the better of his battle with Girona's highly-rated young right-back Porro during his time on the pitch. Linked well again with Benzema for Madrid's second goal.
MF Marco Asensio, 7 -- Very lively after replacing Benzema on the hour mark for his first minutes of 2019. Almost got on the scoresheet with a driving run and shot which provoked an excellent save from Gorka Iraizoz.
DF Nacho, 6 -- Gave Ramos a rest and was caught out by movement for Girona's late goal.
FW Gareth Bale, 6 -- Easing back from his latest calf muscle problem with a second substitute appearance, he did not break into a full sprint but tested Iraizoz with a powerful 20-yarder.