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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
Cristiano Ronaldo (L) congratulates Karim Benzema after the French striker opened the scoring against Valencia
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 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.

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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.

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