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Champions League: Barcelona Prevail in Madrid, Take Two Goal Advantage to the Camp Nou

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The much hyped Champions League game between Real Madrid and Barcelona was finally here.

There were no surprises in the starting line-ups. The unavailable players were replaced by players that everybody expected. Seydou Keita replaced Andrés Iniesta and Carles Puyol started at, for him unusual, but not unfamiliar spot, at left-back.

The game started in an usual El Clásico manor. Barcelona dominated the ball while Real Madrid were sat back and waited for their chances on counter attacks. Compared to the Copa del Rey final, Real were very passive. They allowed Barca to pass around them, not even trying to pressure the ball-carrier.

Despite the space to play Barcelona struggled to get close to Iker Casillas on a regular basis as Los Blancos defended well. They were closing the passing lanes and most importantly Lassana Diarra and Pepe double teamed Lionel Messi, cutting him off from the rest of the team.

The 82% ball possession in the opening 25 minutes, had to eventually lead to chances for Barcelona. Firstly David Villa made a good run down the right flank, cut in the middle and dispatched a low shot just wide of the far post.

Messi wouldn't be the best player in the world if he wouldn't be able to beat double coverage. On one of those occasions he left Pepe and Diarra clueless and he fed Xavi in the box who fired a strong shot, but Casillas saved the effort with his fingertips.

 

 

After the 30 minute mark Real finally put on some pressure and had three free-kick to prove it, but they failed to threaten Víctor Valdes.

Tempers started to flare when Pedro collided with Alvaro Arbeloa in midfield. Arbeloa ended up with a yellow card for the challenge. The nervousness continued and the first half featured even more confrontations., however, none of them were sanctioned by the stellar Wolfgang Stark.

At halftime the unsportmanlike antics continued. José Manuel Pinto lost his nerve in a "conversation" with Arbeloa. Several players joined the scuffle and pushing and shoving ensued. The only player that was sanctioned was Barcelona's backup goalkeeper and he was able to remain in the locker room for the rest of the match.

The hosts started to play more aggressive after the break and Barcelona had difficulties coping with the constant pressure. As a result The Real Madrid created better chances, but again their shots didn't come close to Valdes.

The game took a turn in the 60th minute. Pepe went studs first into Daniel Alves' angle and Stark decided the tackle was malicious enough for a red card.

Barcelona started to play more offensively, but at first they couldn't make their advantage count. Whats more they didn't even outplay Real by that much and 15 minutes after Pepe's dismissal they only created on good chance.

Guardiola then made a good substitution. He replaced the uninspired Pedro with Ibrahim Afellay, a move that paid immediate dividends. The Dutchman made a run down the right side and sent a hard low cross in front of the net where Messi sent the ball through the legs of Casillas.


Around 10.000 Culés at the Santiago Bernabéu, and millions around the world, were given another reason cheer, in the 87th minute, when Messi scored his second of the night. The brilliant Argentine went on a "you won't stop me" run and beat Casillas to the far side.

 

Messi's second goal marked another milestone in his young career. Messi moved to 3rd on Barcelona's all-time goalscoring list with 179 goals, surpassing Samitier (178).

The match ended five minutes later and Barcelona won the game by 2-0 and now have a big advantage over their eternal rivals.

Mourinho will claim the referees aided Barcelona once more, but it doesn't matter. Barcelona went to Madrid to play football and once more football prevailed. The two teams will meet again on Tuesday when we will get the winner of the semi-final and the first finalist of the Champions League.

 

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