Madrid: Real Madrid began life without Julen Lopetegui with a comfortable win in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, when it was Barcelona that struggled to defeat third-division opponents.
Barcelona needed an injury-time goal to win 1-0 at Cultural Leonesa, while Madrid cruised to a 4-0 victory over third-tier Melilla in a first-leg match in the round of 32.
Interim coach Santiago Solari was on the bench as Madrid won with goals from Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, Alvaro Odriozola and Cristo Gonzalez in a match played in Spain’s small enclave in Africa.
It was Madrid’s first game since Lopetegui was sacked on Monday, a day after the team was crushed 5-1 by Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium for their fifth loss in seven matches in all competitions.
“I’m happy because the team worked hard and showed character,” Solari said. “The players showed they are fully committed.”
Solari, who hasn’t been ruled out as a permanent replacement for Lopetegui, pleased fans in his debut by including Vinicius Jr in the line-up. Lopetegui had seldom used the 18-year-old Brazilian forward, who arrived amid high expectations in the summer but had played mostly in the B squad.
One of the best players in the match, Vinicius nearly scored in the 72nd with a powerful shot that struck the crossbar.
“We are working as if Solari will be our coach for the rest of the season,” Madrid defender Fernandez said. “He knows the club, has experience. We are not the ones making these decisions, so let’s see how it goes. But he is a great coach.”
Among the other possible candidates to replace Lopetegui are former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.
Ousmane Dembele led Barcelona’s reserves in a difficult match in northern Spain, and it was his cross from a set piece that led to Clement Lenglet’s winning header a minute into stoppage time.
“We made some mistakes, but what was important was to win,” Lenglet said. “It’s was a good away result.”