Barcelona into Champions League final
Barcelona advanced to the Champions League final by dominating Real Madrid in a 1-1 tie Tuesday night, winning the semifinal on 3-1 aggregate as Pedro Rodriguez scored off a perfect through pass from Andres Iniesta in the 54th minute.
In the fourth match between the rivals in 18 days, Rodriguez gave Barcelona a three-goal lead in the home-and-home, total-goals series.
Marcelo scored for Real Madrid in 64th minute off a pass from Angel Di Maria, whose initial shot bounced back off a post. Marcelo’s was the only shot on goal by the visitors in the entire match.
Seeking its fourth Champions League title and third in six years, Barcelona plays Manchester United or Schalke on May 28 at Wembley. Manchester United takes a 2-0 lead into Wednesday night’s second leg at Old Trafford, and the final could be a rematch of the 2009 championship that Barcelona won 2-0.
Before a crowd of 95,701 in Europe’s largest stadium, Barcelona again dominated a defensive Madrid, which was without banned coach Jose Mourinho for the match at the Camp Nou Stadium. The Blaugrana had 64 percent possession and completed 631 passes to 261 for Madrid. Barcelona had 11 attempts on goal to just three for Madrid – which didn’t have its first until the 53rd minute.
Real coach Jose Mourinho, suspended for the game following his ejection in the first leg, faces an uncertain future in the Spanish capital following a disappointing first season that produced just one trophy: the Copa del Rey. Los Blancos trail Barcelona by eight points in the Spanish league with just four games remaining and have been criticized by former Real great Alfredo Di Stefano for their defensive tactics under Mourinho, who won the Champions League with Inter Milan last year and Porto in 2004.
Mourinho was not visible at Camp Nou and apparently watched from the hotel where his team was staying.
At the end of the match, Barcelona players tossed defender Eric Abidal into the air. Abidal entered in the second-half injury time, his first appearance since surgery on March 17 to remove a liver tumor.
For the first time in five meetings between the rivals this year, Real Madrid managed not to have any players ejected – although five were given yellow cards by Belgian referee Frank de Bleeckere. After last week’s loss in Madrid, Mourinho accused referees of conspiring in favor of Barcelona.
Madrid did start more attacking players than in the first leg, when Cristiano Ronaldo was the lone forward. This time, Gonzalo Higuain and Kaka were given starts. Defenders Pepe and Sergio Ramos were both suspended.
Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas kept the visitors in touch with a number of big saves on Lionel Messi in the first half. While Higuain put the ball into the net past goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the 47th minute, it was called off when De Bleeckere whistled Ronaldo for a foul on Javier Mascherano – even though Ronaldo appeared to be nudged from behind by Gerard Pique.
Pedro scored when he gathered Iniesta’s pass alone inside the area before beating Casillas with a low, left-footed shot.
Madrid, which looked listless for much of the match, scored its first goal at Camp Nou since 2007 when Xabi Alonso stole and fed Di Maria, whose shot hit the near post and came right back to him.
NOTES: Barcelona improved to 6-6 in semifinals and Madrid dropped to 12-10.