Real Madrid victory eases pressure on under-fire Mourinho
updated 5:54 PM EST, Tue January 15, 2013
Cristiano Ronaldo (L) congratulates Karim Benzema after the French striker opened the scoring against Valencia
- Real Madrid beat Valencia 2-0 in the first leg of their Spanish Cup quarterfinal tie
- A strike from Karim Benzema and an Andrés Guardado own goal seal victory
- Win eases pressure on under fire Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho
- Inter Milan beat Bologna 3-2 with a goal seconds before tie went to penalties
(CNN) -- Defending champions Real Madrid trail arch rivals Barcelona by a massive 18 points in the Spanish League, so for the rest of the season their mission is to hunt down success in the cup competitions.
Such a gap to their Catalan cousins has heaped the pressure on Real coach Jose Mourinho, who must now focus on Spain's premier cup competition, the Copa del Rey, and the European Champions League for salvation.
All might be forgiven if he was to secure Europe's most prestigious club prize for a third time as coach, after previous triumphs with Portuguese side Porto and Italian giants Inter Milan.
At the very least Real's fans will expect him to win the Spain's second biggest domestic trophy, and a 2-0 win in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie was enough to quieten the protests against him.
Read: Ronaldo admits Champions League 'anxiety'
A strike from Karim Benzema and an Andrés Guardado own goal sealed victory on a chilly night in Madrid but Real rode their luck on several occasions in front of their vociferous home support.
A day in the life of Cristiano Ronaldo
Messi claims fourth Ballon d'Or
Boateng: We can't ignore racism
Cristiano Ronaldo, as ever, was at the center of most of Real's attacking thrusts in the early stages, the Portuguese striker firing a free kick narrowly wide of the post in the opening stages.
Luka Modric, signed last year from English club Tottenham Hotspur, then spurned a glorious chance to put Real ahead before Valencia's Brazilian striker Jonas twice went close in a matter of minutes.
His misses were to prove costly as Benzema then slotted home from Germany international Sami Khedira's pass inside the area on 37 minutes.
Real's fans began to get restless around the hour mark as Valencia began to dominate before Jonas shot wide of an open goal from 12 yards after Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas had parried Roberto Soldado's effort into his path.
Again, within minutes of a Jonas miss Real scored, this time Valencia defender Guardado putting through his own net from a Fabio Coentrao cross.
Ronaldo was then denied his 29th goal of the season by two brilliant saves from Valencia goalkeeper Vicente, who first repelled the striker's point blank shot from ten yards out before flicking a powerful strike round the post less than a minute later.
A 2-0 win gives Real a comfortable cushion going into the return leg in Valencia next Wednesday.
In the Italian Cup, Inter Milan had to rely on a goal seconds from the end of extra time to beat Bologna 3-2 and progress to the semifinals.
Goals from Fredy Guarin and Rodrigo Palacio put Inter in a commanding position but two goals in four minutes from Alessandro Diamanti and Manolo Gabbiadini pushed the match into extra time.
But with a penalty shootout looming Andrea Ranocchia's header crushed Bologna and sent Inter through to the next round.
In England's premier cup competition, the FA Cup, there were replay wins for Premier League sides Wigan, Queens Park Rangers, Stoke and Fulham, though Sunderland succumbed to second tier Bolton.
Part of complete coverage on
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
updated 6:52 AM EDT, Thu May 23, 2013
When Germany's two biggest soccer clubs go head-to-head in the Champions League final, there can only be one winner: German industry.
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Wed May 22, 2013
The Bundesliga model of sustainability is very much in vogue. But are Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund creating a dangerous duopoly?
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Thu May 23, 2013
Bayern Munich super fan Boris Becker takes a tour of London ahead of the 2013 Champions League final.
updated 6:15 AM EDT, Thu May 23, 2013
CNN takes an exclusive look at the venue of the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
CNN's Pedro Pinto gives his analysis of the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Fri May 17, 2013
David Beckham embraced his tag as a "gay icon" and has been credited with breaking the big taboo -- homosexuality in football.
updated 3:50 AM EDT, Mon May 13, 2013
'King' Alex Ferguson is quitting Manchester United but the $3.17 billion brand will survive, according to experts.
updated 10:18 AM EDT, Tue May 7, 2013
Italian football lags behind its other European rivals commercially, but newly-crowned Italian champions Juventus is showing Serie A clubs an example of revival.
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
Luis Suarez's biting of Branislav Ivanovic is the latest episode of moments of madness when soccer stars behave badly.
updated 5:38 AM EDT, Fri March 29, 2013
Sunderland's partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation is part of its bid to woo the African market.
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Thu March 28, 2013
Each year as many as 700 Cameroonian young footballers leave Africa in search of a professional career abroad.
updated 8:01 AM EDT, Mon May 6, 2013
Referees across Europe are feeling the heat. Insulted, threatened, chased off the field, attacked, hospitalized and, tragically, killed.
updated 7:25 AM EST, Tue February 26, 2013
Footballers have a battery of physios, fitness trainers and doctors all striving to fine-tune their physique -- but are they missing a trick?
updated 9:24 AM EST, Tue February 26, 2013
No Englishman has won the EPL title in over 20 years, while a leading manager reveals that English coaches are now "not respected abroad."
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Mon May 13, 2013
Hardcore Italian football "ultra" Federico is a Lazio supporter who happily admits directing monkey chants at black players.
updated 6:23 AM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
When Jupp Heynckes made his Bundesliga debut as a player in 1965, the name of Bayern Munich was a new one for the nascent German league.
updated 2:02 PM EST, Tue February 19, 2013
Football's world governing body FIFA has confirmed it will use goal-line technology at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
updated 9:03 AM EST, Tue February 19, 2013
Match-fixing has become a worldwide issue, with hundreds of matches under investigation -- but how do you actually fix a football game?
updated 12:00 PM EST, Mon February 18, 2013
U.S soccer star Robbie Rogers has "come out" as gay on the day he retired from the game, making the announcement on his blog.
updated 5:31 PM EST, Mon February 11, 2013
The wealth of owners like Chelsea's Roman Abramovich often fuels success, but for other clubs such backers prove a mixed blessing.
updated 8:42 AM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
The Secret Footballer reveals the complex issues surrounding racism in the English Premier League.