MADRID (AP) — 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 a third-division opponent.
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 its 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.”
Benzema was one of the few regular starters on the team, along with captain Sergio Ramos and goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Benzema and Ramos played only the first half, being replaced by Federico Valverde and Nacho Fernandez, respectively.
Solari, who hasn’t been ruled out as a permanent replacement for Lopetegui, pleased fans in his debut by including Vinicius Junior in the lineup. 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.