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Spanish minnows Leganés stun Real Madrid, knocking them out of Copa del Rey

Spanish giants won the first leg of the tie 1-0, but their opponents – currently in 13th place in La Liga – roared back with a 2-1 win on Wednesday. They advance on away goals.

Thursday 25 January, 2018
Leganes player Gabriel Appelt, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's second goal against Real Madrid during the Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Wednesday.
Leganes player Gabriel Appelt, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's second goal against Real Madrid during the Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Wednesday. Foto:AP Photo/Francisco Seco

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Real Madrid followed its biggest win of the season with its most embarrassing defeat yet on Wednesday, and the pressure is back on for coach Zinedine Zidane and his players.

After routing Deportivo La Coruna 7-1 to give fans a glimmer of hope after a series of poor results, Madrid crashed out of the Copa del Rey with a shock 2-1 loss to Leganés at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

The elimination in the Copa quarter-finals was the latest setback for Madrid in what has been a disappointing season.

The 2017 Champions League winners currently sit fourth in La Liga, trailing leader Barcelona by 19 points with a game in hand. With yesterday's loss, the only realistic chance of a title for the rest of the season will be in the Champions League, where Real Madrid faces Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

The Bernabeu crowd loudly jeered Madrid after the loss, with Zidane among those criticised the most after fielding second-stringers despite the big gap to Barcelona in La Liga.

'I'm responsible'

"We clearly failed, and I'm the one responsible for it. We were not supposed to be eliminated like this after having won the first leg," said Zidane, calling the defeat the worst moment of his coaching career with Madrid. "I'm upset. It's a big disappointment. I know it's a difficult night for the fans."

It's the second consecutive year Madrid has been eliminated in the Copa quarter-finals, having lost to Celta Vigo last season.

Leganés, based just south of Madrid, was playing in the last eight of the Copa for the first time in the team's 89-year history.

"The key was that we believed we could achieve this, even after the loss last week," Leganés coach Asier Garitano said. "We played a great match and everything went well."

The visitors provided the bigger threat at the Bernabeu, opening the scoring with Javi Eraso's curling shot into the top corner of the net. Eraso picked up the loose ball just outside the area after a bad exchange of passes between Madrid defenders Achraf Hakimi and Nacho Fernandez. Hakimi's pass was too short and Fernandez couldn't control the ball under pressure from Eraso.

After being jeered at halftime, Madrid came back strongly after the break, with Karim Benzema scoring early with a close-range shot over the goalkeeper after a through ball by Lucas Vazquez. The goal ended Benzema's six-match scoreless streak that dated back to November.

Stunned crowd

But Leganés stunned the home crowd again less than 10 minutes later, when Gabriel Pires scored with a header from a corner taken by Eraso.

Benzema nearly scored an equalizer that would have allowed Madrid to advance in the 81st, but his shot from inside the area was saved by goalkeeper Nereo Champagne. The goalkeeper also stopped Sergio Ramos from scoring with a header in the 85th.

Real Madrid, which won the Spanish Super Cup and the Club World Cup earlier this season, endured a three-match winless streak at home before trouncing Deportivo in Sunday's league match.

In the competition's other ties, Valencia defeated Alavés 3-2 in a penalty shootout. A 2-1 win by Alavés in regulation time of the second leg evened the series at 3-3 on aggregate. Domenech then stopped shots by Alfonso Pedraza and forward Hernan Perez to send Valencia through to the last four for the second time in three seasons.

Sevilla won both legs against Atlético Madrid to become the third semi-finalist.

Barcelona lost 1-0 to city rival Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final last Wednesday. They play the second leg later today. The defeat ended a 29-game unbeaten streak.

-TIMES/AP

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