Champions League - Barcelona in final after draw
Tue, 03 May 21:40:00 2011
Barcelona moved into the Champions League final after a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Camp Nou gave them a 3-1 aggregate semi-final victory.
Following the 2-0 win at the Bernabeu, Barca were clear favourites for the tie even before Pedro’s second-half goal from Andres Iniesta’s glorious pass gave them a 3-0 overall lead.
Marcelo pulled Madrid level 10 minutes later but the expected grandstand finish failed to materialise as both sides cancelled each other out.
There was a touch of controversy as Gonzalo Higuain had a goal disallowed early in the second half with the score still goalless and, while there were none of the ugly scenes seen in the first leg, late in the match featured a spot of Barca simulation and some fouls from a frustrated Real.
The Liga leaders will now face either Manchester United or Schalke 04 in the final at Wembley later this month, with United favourites to progress after they won the first leg 2-0 in Germany.
Real’s outspoken coach Jose Mourinho was widely condemned for his angry statements after the first leg and, even though he was banned from the touchline, he still managed to create the pre-match talking point by failing to show up at the stadium.
Mourinho left assistant Aitor Karanka in charge as he reportedly watched the match from the comfort of the team hotel, out of sight of the cameras and microphones hunting every flamboyant gesture and ill-advised comment.
The first half saw little of the Barca gamesmanship that marred that contest and no nonsense whatsoever, with slightly theatrical tumbles by Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano the only sour points in a first half that saw none of the referee-baiting and card-demanding that outraged most non-Spanish viewers last time.
In addition to the improved attitude, the football was better too, with Madrid initially starting impressively as they tried to surmount the seemingly insurmountable by grabbing an early goal.
Victor Valdes barely noticed though, with Madrid lacking the guile to get past Gerard Pique in particular as Pep Guardiola’s side clicked into gear on a quick pitch nicely moistened by a thunderstorm before kick-off, leading to ironic suggestions that even the weather is pro-Barca.
On 22 minutes Sergio Busquets - a figure of controversy over an alleged racist incident involving Marcelo in the first leg - should have scored for the hosts, heading straight at Iker Casillas from a Xavi corner, and from thereon in it was all Barca.
Real’s promising start was a distant memory as the hosts ran and passed rings around them, Spain keeper Casillas making smart stops from Messi and David Villa before keeping his side in the game with an excellent save from the Argentine.
All Real could muster was a cross-shot from Cristiano Ronaldo that Valdes met before Angel Di Maria, with the Portuguese once again lacklustre in the biggest non-domestic games.
It was goalless at the break but, frankly, could have been more as Real barely got a look-in during the second quarter.
The first real attempt at mind-games occurred before second-half kick-off as Barca made Real wait a few minutes before returning to the pitch.
There was further delay as a hat-wearing pitch-invader was rugby tackled and dragged away by security and, when the match finally restarted, there was a moment of controversy as Higuain was denied a goal after Ronaldo was adjudged to have felled Mascherano in the build-up: the Argentine made the most of any contact.
Indeed, replays hinted that Mascherano dived, having realised that Ronaldo had played Higuain through but also that he was close enough to the Portuguese to give the referee a decision to make.
It was referee Frank De Bleeckere’s only failing - otherwise he let the game flow, was relatively lax with Carvalho in particular and did not buy any gamesmanship from either side.
Fuelled by a mini sense of injustice, Madrid were buzzing, Ronaldo almost releasing Higuain and Di Maria but denied by good defending from Puyol and Pique respectively.
It was game over soon afterwards though when Iniesta - injured for the first leg - split the visiting defence in two with a glorious through ball that found the narrowest of gaps between Carvalho and Raul Albiol, Pedro staying onside before rattling a wicked low finish past Casillas.
Karanka responded by introducing Emmanuel Adebayor, whose first act was to leave a stud mark on the calf of Busquets.
Madrid pulled one back when Marcelo smacked in a sweet finish, set up by the unselfish Di Maria, who picked up the loose ball after his initial shot cracked off the woodwork following a trademark mazy run.
Real needed two goals in 25 minutes, but they failed to materialise.
Adebayor was happy to put it about - flinging himself into a mixture of fair and foul tackles and booked for shirt-tug on Messi - while Busquets and Mascherano were responsible for some unnecessary rolls, with the latter’s attempt to get the excellent Lassana Diarra sent off particularly irritating.
Otherwise, the match seemed to drift away, Barca happy to play a Madrid-style countering game, with Los Merengues starting to toil in the rain.
There was a bright spot for all football fans when Eric Abidal - surprisingly back in the fold after having a tumour removed from his liver in February - was brought on at the end, a remarkable comeback from his cancer scare, while Pedro suffered a jarred knee that should not see him ruled out for more than a game at worst.
Barca comfortably rode the match out to qualify for their third final in six years while Real have to content themselves with a Copa del Rey victory, with La Liga all-but won for the Catalan side.
Champions League : Review