Real Madrid CF hold a strong advantage in the first of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals to get under way after tonight's 2-0 victory over Valencia CF at the Santiago Bernabéu. Karim Benzema's 37th-minute goal came at the end of a move involving Michael Essien and Sami Khedira, whose through pass Benzema coolly dispatched past Vicente Guaita. Valencia's task for the Mestalla second leg on 23 January became all the more difficult after 73 minutes when Andrés Guardado turned Fábio Coentrão's driven cross into his own net under pressure from Gonzalo Higuaín.
It needed the roller coaster of a penalty shoot-out to take AS Saint-Étienne into the French League Cup final after a goalless draw with visiting LOSC Lille – earning Les Verts' first final appearance of any description since 1982. With the two Ligue 1 teams still level after 120 minutes and a combined 16 shots on goal at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, St-Étienne nudged decisively in front at 7-6 on penalties when Lille's Idrissa Gueye sent his attempt over the crossbar. Their opponents will be revealed tomorrow night as Stade Rennais FC host French champions Montpellier Hérault SC in the second semi-final. The League Cup winners will enter next season's UEFA Europa League.
FC Internazionale Milano became the third side to advance to the Coppa Italia semi-finals but they did it the hard way after edging their quarter-final against Bologna FC 3-2 after extra time. There was no hint of the drama to come at San Siro when Rodrigo Palacio's 77th-minute strike into the top corner doubled the lead given to the hosts by Fredy Guarín's equally emphatic 34th-minute effort. However, Alessandro Diamanti's swerving free-kick four minutes later revived Bologna, who promptly equalised in the 84th minute when Manolo Gabbiadini turned in a Marco Motta cross. The visitors' hearts would be broken in the last minute of extra time, though, when Andrea Ranocchia headed in Guarín's corner.
Premier League sides Sunderland AFC and West Bromwich Albion FC were the main casualties of tonight's nine FA Cup third-round replays as Fulham FC and Stoke City FC survived scares against lower-league opponents. Sunderland went down 2-0 at home to Bolton Wanderers FC, with Marvin Sordell scoring twice for the second-tier team. West Brom, meanwhile, fell 1-0 to the top flight's bottom club Queens Park Rangers FC, again on home soil, Jay Bothroyd getting the goal. Stoke required extra time – and a Jon Walters double – to overcome Crystal Palace FC, eventually 4-1, and Fulham were grateful for the last-gasp Kieran Richardson equaliser which paved the way for a 2-1 success at Blackpool FC. Among the others winners were Leeds United AFC and Wigan Athletic FC.
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