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Real hit back to hold Barcelona in Clasico Copa del Rey clash

updated 6:06 PM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas celebrates after giving his side the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas celebrates after giving his side the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Real Madrid and Barcelona draw 1-1 in first leg of Copa del Rey semifinal
  • Raphael Varane heads 81st minute equalizer to cancel out Cesc Fabregas' opener
  • Two teams will meet again at Camp Nou for second leg on February 26
  • Manchester United extends lead at top of English Premier League

(CNN) -- It was supposed to be the Copa del Rey semifinal showdown between Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and his Barcelona nemesis Lionel Messi.

But the two superstars, who have scored 77 goals between them in all competitions this season, were overshadowed by a man making his very first start in a Clasico matchup in Madrid Wednesday.

Real defender Raphael Varane might only be 19, but he capped a hugely impressive performance with a dramatic equalizer to ensure his side will travel to the Camp Nou next month level at 1-1 with every chance of making the final.

Messi sets up 'El Clasico' clash

The Frenchman, playing at the heart of the Real defense, made a whole host of challenges and tackles to help Jose Mourinho's side claim a draw from an enthralling first leg encounter.

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That result looked in doubt for some time once Cesc Fabregas had fired the visitor ahead early in the second half with the Catalans going on to create a whole plethora of chances.

Xavi Hernandez hit the crossbar in the first half and had another effort brilliantly blocked on the line by Varane as Barcelona threatened to take control of the 223rd clasico.

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But the league leaders finally made the breakthrough six minutes after the interval when Cesc Fabregas latched onto Leo Messi's pass and slotted the slotted the ball home.

Real, which is 15 points behind Barcelona in La Liga, had chances of its own and Ronaldo somehow headed wide from three yards when he looked certain to score.

Pedro should have punished Real further when he burst clear with 17 minutes remaining, but he inexplicably prodded his effort wide of the far post with just the goalkeeper to beat.

Messi trumps Ronaldo

And Real took full advantage of Barcelona's wasteful nature as Varane headed home Mesut Ozil's cross with nine minutes remaining.

There was still time for stand-in goalkeeper Diego Lopez to deny Jordi Alba a late winner but Barca was forced to settle for a draw and a crucial away goal.

"These games are always very tough," Fabregas told Spanish television.

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"Considering how the march went the result could have been more favourable from our point of view.

"But we will be at home for the return leg in front of our own fans. We are in a good rhythm and having a spectacular season."

The two teams will contest the second leg at Camp Nou on February 26.

More woe for Chelsea boss Benitez

In the English Premier League, Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez was forced to watch on in horror as his side threw away a two goal lead to draw 2-2 at relegation threatened Reading.

Juan Mata and Frank Lampard had put the visitor in a commanding position with just 24 minutes of normal time remaining.

But Reading's super sub Adam Le Fondre scored twice in the last three minutes to snatch a point for his side.

Manchester United extended its lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points with a 2-1 win over Southampton.

After falling behind early on at Old Trafford to Jay Rodriguez's effort, United hit back thanks to two goals from Wayne Rooney.

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Arsenal came from two goals down to claim a point in a thrilling 2-2 draw against Liverpool.

Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson had give Liverpool at two goal lead in London but strikes from Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott ensured the spoils were shared.

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But there was bad news for Arsenal after it was confirmed that defender Kieran Gibbs will be out of action for up to three weeks with a thigh injury.

Elsewhere, Tottenham was held to a 1-1 draw at Norwich, Fulham defeated West Ham 2-1 and Everton saw off West Bromwich Albion by the same scoreline.

Lazio charged with racist fan behavior

Meanwhile, Italian club Lazio has been fined $190,000 by UEFA after its Europa League games with Tottenham and Maribor were marred by racist chanting.

Lazio was hit with a $122,00 punishment after sections of its support sang "Juden Tottenham" ("Tottenham Jews" in German) at the visiting fans, whose club has a historical Jewish connection.

They also held up a banner which read "Free Palestine" during the game on November 22 last year.

Tottenham was also fined $13,500 for crowd disturbances in the same fixture.

Lazio had previously been fined $54,500 by UEFA after monkey chants were directed at Tottenham players during the reverse fixture in London in September.

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UEFA also punished Lazio after their fans threw missiles and fireworks on to the pitch while the team was sanctioned for their late arrival at the stadium.

The Italians also received a suspended one-match stadium ban and a further $68,000 fine for their supporters' racist conduct in the Europa League group stage game against Maribor in Slovenia on December 6.

Maribor were fined $23,000 for poor match organization and the throwing of missiles and fireworks by their supporters at the same Group J game.

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