Barcelona reaches Champions League final
Barcelona reached the Champions League final after a 1-1 draw
against Real Madrid on Tuesday completed a 3-1 aggregate win in the
final installment of a four-match series between Spain’s bitter
Andres Iniesta returned from injury to thread a perfect through
ball to Pedro Rodriguez for the 54th minute opener before Angel Di
Maria found Marcelo with a short pass for Madrid’s equalizer 10
Barcelona goes for its second Champions League title in three
seasons under coach Pep Guardiola as the Spanish champion did its
bit for a possible repeat of the 2009 final against Manchester
United, which leads Schalke 2-0 in the other semifinal. The final
takes place on May 28 at Wembley, where Barca won its first
Champions League title in 1992.
As in the first leg, Barcelona dominated a defensive Madrid,
which was without banned coach Jose Mourinho for the match in the
steady rain at the Camp Nou Stadium, but the second leg provided a
far more absorbing contest than the first.
”Football justice was served,” Barcelona midfielder Xavi
Hernandez said. ”The best team got through.”
Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas kept the visitors in touch with
a number of superb saves from Lionel Messi in the first half and
would have been back in the tie had Gonzalo Higuain’s not been
disallowed at the start of the second half.
Cristiano Ronaldo went down under a challenge from Gerard Pique
and, in falling, clipped the heel of Javier Mascherano, before
Higuain put the ball in the net. Referee Frank De Bleeckere pulled
play back for Ronaldo’s foul on Mascherano.
”Another (setback), like always,” Casillas said after
Barcelona’s players celebrated on the pitch. ”We’re not going to
get upset because it will just be used against us.”
Barcelona struck after that as Pedro gathered Iniesta’s pass
alone inside the area before beating Casillas with a low,
Madrid did come away with its first goal at the Camp Nou since
2007 when Xabi Alonso fed Di Maria in the 64th. Di Maria broke into
the area and beat Victor Valdes but not the near post, although the
ball bounced right back to the Argentina forward to slide a short
pass over to Marcelo for the equalizer.
Spanish champion Barcelona will now go for its fourth European
title and third since 2006. Madrid, meanwhile, comes away from the
four-game series between the historic rivals with just the Copa del
”The last 20 days have been really hard, a lot of tension,”
Guardiola said before praising his opponent despite a series of
matches marked by taunting, hostility and accusations. ”(They’re)
probably the best team in the world apart from my team,
Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka – in charge with Mourinho
reportedly watching from the comforts of his team hotel – insisted
there was no communication with Mourinho, although he knew his
”Mourinho is right – after the (last) game he said it was
impossible for us to go forward,” said Karanka, who said he spoke
to Mourinho right after the whistle.
”He said congratulations to everyone. He’s feeling angry about
what we’ve seen in the last few games with the referees.”
With goals needed, the Portuguese coach made changes from the
first leg with Kaka replacing Mesut Oezil and Higuain starting.
Defenders Pepe and Sergio Ramos were both suspended.
Barcelona fielded all eight of its World Cup winners as Iniesta
returned after missing the bad-tempered opener that has UEFA
examining six charges against the clubs, who were facing off for
the fourth time in 18 days with a chance to play for Europe’s
biggest prize at stake.
The tentative start featured more of the bruising play that
accompanied the first leg as Barcelona controlled possession but
only began to pepper Casillas’ goal once Madrid’s upfield pressure
Needing at least two goals just to force extra-time, Casillas
kept Madrid in the game with three classy saves inside a
four-minute blitz led by Messi.
Casillas dived to his right to snatch the Argentina forward’s
32nd-minute chance before somehow getting a hand up to deny David
Villa’s curling shot after a Barcelona break.
The Spain goalkeeper also watched chances from Messi and Pedro
Rodriguez fly wide before denying Messi’s low shot through the
As the defense grappled to contain Messi, Madrid’s attack didn’t
manage a shot on goal until just before Pedro’s opener.
Madrid appeared to find some rhythm after the restart as it
began to press forward with more authority while the assistants on
the bench appeared to receive tactical instructions through a
But De Bleeckere’s call and Pedro’s goal appeared to deflate the
visitors, although substitutes Emmanuel Adebayor and Oezil helped
offensively as Marcelo equalized from Madrid’s lone shot on
”That would have been the first step in the comeback,” Alonso
said. ”We’re upset, hurt to not go through because of so many
As Barcelona looked to close out the game, Guardiola brought on
Eric Abidal in the 90th minute for his first appearance since
undergoing surgery to remove a liver tumor in March.