Soon to meet in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC came through domestic cup ties unscathed despite not having it all their own way against lower-league opposition.
Josep Guardiola's Liga leaders took a 5-0 cushion into the second leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final against Real Betis Balompié, but had their advantage reduced by two inside six minutes via Jorge Malino's double. Lionel Messi (37) − who missed a penalty in the second half − soothed Barça nerves and although Arzu (45) added another for the hosts, their task proved too much. It was the Azulgrana's first loss in 29 matches dating back to 11 September.
Barcelona will meet UD Almería – bottom of the Spanish top flight – in the last four after they beat RC Deportivo La Coruña 4-2 on aggregate, but not without a brief scare of their own. Goals from Miguel Angel Corona and Albert Crusat inside 20 minutes left Depor needing to score four following their 1-0 away defeat in the first instalment. They reached half their target only to be stopped in their tracks by Henok Goitom's penalty.
Arsenal's progress in their FA Cup third-round replay against Leeds United AFC was far from smooth either. Held 1-1 at home by the Championship outfit ten days ago, Arsène Wenger's team looked set for an easier time of it at Elland Road when Samir Nasri's clipped finish (5) and Bacary Sagna's fierce drive (35) put them two to the good. They were in the clear for all of two minutes, however, Bradley Johnson's ferocious 25-metre shot ensuring the Gunners of a nervy second half. Substitute Robin van Persie's header (76) ultimately earned them a 3-1 win.
Elsewhere, Bundesliga sides 1. FC Nürnberg and 1. FC Kaiserslautern overcame third-tier opposition in their rescheduled German Cup round of 16 assignments. Kaiserslauten defeated TuS Koblenz 4-1, with Srdjan Lakić – who also missed a penalty – scoring a hat-trick to add to the 11 league goals he has already registered this term. Timmy Simons, meanwhile, found the net twice in Nürnberg's 2-0 win against Kickers Offenbach.
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