Madrid (AFP) – La Liga’s heavyweights were both given a scare by third tier opponents in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday as Barcelona needed two late goals to beat Ibiza and Real Madrid dug deep for victory over Unionistas de Salamanca.
Barca sit 44 places ahead of Ibiza and Madrid 56 above Unionistas but the lowly duo both came close to extraordinary upsets, only for Ibiza to lose 2-1 and Unionistas 3-1 in front of their jubilant home fans.
With Lionel Messi rested and not even on the bench, Antoine Griezmann proved the saviour for Barcelona, scoring twice in the second half, including a 94th-minute winner, after Pep Caballe had given the hosts a fairytale lead at Can Misses.
Discomfort was more fleeting more Madrid, who conceded an equaliser in the second half following a brilliant run and finish from Unionistas’ Alvaro Romero, only to restore their advantage five minutes later.
Juan Gongora turned the ball into his own net after Gareth Bale, back from injury and illness, scored his first goal for his club since September 1.
Bale has again been linked with a move away from Madrid this month and his celebrations were notably muted.
But at the end, Unionistas fans were waving their scarves with pride just as Ibiza’s supporters had applauded their team off, even though Griezmann had dashed their hopes just moments before.
Only last week, Barcelona topped Deloitte’s annual Football Money League with a total revenue of $959.3m for 2018/19 while Madrid were just behind, the world’s second richest club with $864m.
Unionistas, meanwhile, only came into existence in 2013, launched by their own supporters after UD Salamanca went out of business.
It was a dream draw to get Real Madrid but they almost had to move grounds because their Las Pistas one stand and lighting that needed upgrading.
Ibiza are even younger, having formed in 2015 and played in the fifth tier only three years ago.
Griezmann’s rescue act was cruel but important for Barcelona’s new coach Quique Setien, who enjoyed a 1-0 victory in his first game in charge against Granada on Sunday but could hardly afford a loss of this magnitude so early in his tenure.
– Snapping at their heels –
For all the dominance of the ball, there was a lack of cutting edge against Ibiza, who restricted their star-studded opponents to one shot in the first half, Barca’s lowest in any game they have played this season.