Madrid clinch Copa del Rey
Ronaldo nets extra-time header for Los Blancos at the Mestalla
Last Updated: 21/04/11 7:36am
Ronaldo: Scored with a bullet header to clinch King's Cup
Cristiano Ronaldo scored an extra-time header to clinch the Copa del Rey for Real Madrid following a 1-0 triumph over rivals Barcelona.
Just days after the weekend Clasico in La Liga and with the upcoming UEFA Champions League semi-final between the two rearing into view, Ronaldo nodded home a fine effort in the 103rd minute after an intense battle.
Madrid were on top in the opening 45 and were unlucky not to take the lead on the stroke of half-time but Pepe's header came back off the inside of the post.
Pep Guardiola rallied the troops at the break and the Catalans came out firing, with Iker Casillas making a string of smart saves.
But Jose Mourinho's side dug deep and after some fine interplay between Marcelo and Di Maria down the left, the Argentine whipped in a delicious cross that Ronaldo met with a bullet effort into the net.
Jose Manuel Pinto started in goal instead of Victor Valdes, as he had done all the way through the competition.
Meanwhile, Barca captain Carles Puyol was deemed unfit to start following his injury in Saturday night's 1-1 draw at Madrid in the Primera Division, so Javier Mascherano slotted in alongside Gerard Pique in the centre of defence.
Mourinho restored Mesut Ozil to his side after the Germany playmaker began Saturday's draw on the bench.
In this, the second of four Clasico meetings, with a two-legged semi-final to come in the Champions League starting next week, the Portuguese kept faith with Pepe in a three-man midfield shield alongside Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso.
And it worked early on as Madrid pushed back Barcelona, appearing to surprise the Catalans with their dynamic start to the game.
Ronaldo, playing up front as Mourinho opted to leave three strikers - Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema and Emmanuel Adebayor - on the bench, came close to giving his side the lead after 12 minutes when he beat Pinto from close range but saw Mascherano hack the ball off the line.
Madrid full-back Alvaro Arbeloa was lucky to get away with a clear stamp on David Villa later in the half as things began to turn ugly.
The defender escaped without a caution, but both Pepe and Pedro found their way into the referee's book before the interval as the two teams continued to compete close to the edge.
But in football terms, Madrid had the edge. Pinto saved well from Ronaldo 10 minutes before the interval, but the stand-in keeper was badly-positioned just before the break and was lucky to see Pepe's header rebound off the post.
But Barca began the second half on the front foot, stepping up a gear following a disappointing opening 45 minutes.
Pedro fired just wide, Lionel Messi blasted over the bar and the Argentina forward was almost set up by Dani Alves as the Catalans found their rhythm.
And they thought they had gone ahead after 68 minutes when Villa, who had not scored for 10 games, latched onto a Messi through-ball after the Argentinian had brilliantly beaten three Madrid players, and slotted a low shot past Iker Casillas, but the assistant's flag was up and the Spain striker's effort was correctly ruled out.
Nevertheless, Barca were dominant now and that looked ominous for Madrid. Casillas made two fine saves within a minute to deny Messi and then Pedro, while the Argentinian was stopped in his tracks as he looked to waltz through the Madrid defence.
But Madrid weathered the storm and the score remained goalless after 90 minutes.
The first period of extra-time was dominated by Barca, but the best chance fell to Ronaldo, who raced clear down the right flank and charged into the area, only to drive a low angled shot just wide of the target.
But the Catalans failed to heed the warning and five minutes later, they were behind. Marcelo played a one-two with Di Maria, who then sent a deep, inviting cross into the area searching for Ronaldo, who rose majestically to power home a header at the far post.
Ronaldo should have wrapped it up two minutes before the end, but selfishly kept the ball in the area and his shot was eventually blocked.
But Madrid held on to seal a famous win and end a spell of almost three years without a trophy.
Spanish Copa del Rey Semi-Final
Spanish Copa del Rey Final