Copa del Rey: Ramos takes Real close to semifinals

Sajith B Warrier

Madrid, January 25: Sergio Ramos scored twice to put Real Madrid on the brink of the Copa del Rey semifinals as they came from behind to beat Girona 4-2 in a thrilling first leg.

A day after archrivals Barcelona were shocked by Sevilla, Ramos' chipped penalty gave Madrid a 2-1 half-time lead at the Santiago Bernabeu after Lucas Vazquez had cancelled out Anthony Lozano's early strike.

Girona, however, came again, Alex Granell scoring from the spot, only for Ramos to head home with 13 minutes left before Benzema added a fourth to extend the advantage ahead of next week's second leg.

Ramos now has nine goals in all competitions this season and these two were key as Madrid maintained what it is beginning to look like a second revival under coach Santiago Solari.

After a blistering start, Solari oversaw a dip at the turn of the year but his team have now won four out of their last five, the only slip coming in a second leg defeat to Leganes when progress was already all-but secured.

"Football never lets up, now comes Espanyol on Sunday and we want to win to get closer to the top," Solari said. "When hard work is rewarded by results, the feeling is contagious."

It would be a timely run into form, with Atletico Madrid in La Liga and then Ajax in the UEFA Champions League both to come at the start of next month.

Ten points adrift in the league, this competition now represents Madrid's best hope of a domestic trophy this season and Solari's selection seemed to suggest as much.

He picked a strong line-up, which included a recall for the struggling Marcelo while Toni Kroos made the bench, after recovering from injury.

Girona were keener to rotate as Cristhian Stuani, La Liga's third top scorer, was left on the bench ahead of Sunday's game at home to Barcelona.

"We prioritise La Liga," Girona coach Eusebio said.

"We value the history of the cup but our resources have to be saved for the league."

(With inputs from Agencies)

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