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Rik Sharma

Benzema hits hat-trick as Madrid smash Barca to reach Copa final

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema (C) celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against Barcelona at Camp Nou. ©AFP

Barcelona (AFP) - Karim Benzema struck a hat-trick as Real Madrid hammered Barcelona 4-0 at Camp Nou to reach the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday, progressing 4-1 on aggregate.

Vinicius Junior opened the scoring just before the break as Carlo Ancelotti's side mounted a spectacular comeback from their one-goal semi-final first leg deficit, with Benzema adding a second-half treble.

After netting three at the weekend against Real Valladolid in La Liga, Benzema repeated the trick to humiliate Barcelona on a painful night for coach Xavi Hernandez in front of almost 95,000 distraught fans.

Los Blancos trail their arch-rivals by 12 points in La Liga and were beaten by Barca in the Spanish Super Cup final in January, but triumphed here to reach the Copa final for the first time since 2014, where they will face Osasuna.

Madrid turfed out the record 31-time cup winners with a muscular performance on a spiky night in Barcelona, where they also ended a demoralising run of three consecutive Clasico defeats.

Ancelotti's team dominated in the first leg but fell to a 1-0 defeat after Eder Militao's own goal, and suffered a last-gasp sucker punch in La Liga against Barcelona in March, when the Catalans snatched a late win.

"It was important to win, then the margin of victory is another satisfaction, but the important thing was to win," Madrid midfielder Fede Valverde told RTVE.

"We know what Karim gives us, for the goals he scores he's a reference point for all of us, he always wants more."

Barcelona's Sergi Roberto said letting in Vinicius' goal on the stroke of half-time was a huge blow.

"Their goal at the end of the first half killed us, we didn't deserve to let in that goal, I think we were better in the first half," the midfielder told RTVE.

"We created more chances that we didn't put away, and that goal hurt our morale.In the second half they scored the second and we couldn't play our game."

The Catalan said defeat would not damage Barcelona's title bid in the final weeks of the season.

"Now we have a considerable points distance, it will not affect us, we have to continue and go for the league," he added.

Xavi was without injured quartet Ousmane Dembele, Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Andreas Christensen, and eventually it told.

The game started at a furious pace and intensity, both teams keen to reach the final, but absolutely desperate not to be knocked out by the other.

Barca coach Xavi was booked for protesting a foul as tempers boiled over, while Gavi and Vinicius were also issued yellow cards as they scrapped.

Thousands of Barcelona fans chanted Lionel Messi's name in the 10th minute, amid speculation he could leave Paris Saint-Germain, and they would have dearly loved some of the Argentine's magic.

Lethal Madrid

Los Blancos took the lead in stoppage time at the end of the first half, when they showed their prowess on the counter-attack.

Thibaut Courtois made a fine save to deny Robert Lewandowski and exactly 20 seconds later, Vinicius struck at the other end.

Rodrygo cut the ball back to the forward, who squeezed a shot home despite Jules Kounde's best attempt at a goal-line clearance.Benzema was on hand to make sure, but Vinicius's effort had already crossed the line.

The French forward soon was able to pounce though, finishing lethally from the edge of the box in an ocean of space after Luka Modric easily skipped away from Sergi Roberto.

Benzema slotted home his second from the penalty spot before the hour mark, sending Marc-Andre ter Stegen the wrong way after Kessie clumsily fouled Vinicius.

Xavi threw on Ansu Fati to try and spark a comeback of their own, but Barcelona could not find a way through.

It was one-way traffic as Ter Stegen denied Marco Asensio and then Benzema completed his hat-trick with a cool finish after a fine dribble and pass by Vinicius.

Madrid have lifted the trophy on 19 occasions, while their opponents Osasuna have never won it, securing passage to their second final after beating Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

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