Barcelona are on their way to Wembley, as a 1-1 draw was enough to see them through 3-1 on aggreagte. Pedro opened the scoring for the Blaugrana, and despite Marcelo's goal, there was only one winner, and that was Barcelona. After all the reaction surrounding the first 3 games, this was truly El Clasico.
The weather in Barcelona was doing it’s best to put us off the final El Clasico showdown. Storms, and a lot of rain were trying to put a dampers on proceedings, but the players, were not.
Guardiola came out with his strongest line-up, with Iniesta returning, although Abidal was only fit enough to make the bench. It only took 28 seconds for the first foul to fly in, but boy was this gonna be some half.
Barcelona were playing their usual game, but surprisingly, Madrid were not playing theirs. The recent Clasicos had seen them employ ultra-negative tactics through choice. Kaka and Higuain were starting, but Barcelona were going to force them back this time.
Iniesta dragged a shot wide on 6 minutes, and the game was being played at a breathtaking pace. Each team were flying up and down the pitch, but this only suited the Blaugrana. It took them a while, but they were about the lay siege to Iker Casillas’ goal.
The signs were there after Sergio Busquets was allowed a free header from a corner kick, but could only direct it at Iker. Don’t worry though, Casillas was about to treat us.
Clearly annoyed by Manuel Neuer’s performance last week, Casillas decided to one-up him.
Lionel Messi had a shot on 31, that Casillas dived acrobatically for, and then spilled, but no-one could capitalise. Messi, 2 minutes later, dragged a shot wide after great play to generate space. Villa forced Iker into a brilliant save on 34, after great play from Messi of course, and in the same minute Pedro had a chance to break the deadlock!
Barca were rampant.
Then Messi had another chance, but Casillas again stood firm.
Barca then proceeded to play out their time, but make no mistake, Barcelona were on top, Ricardo Carvalho was teetering, on the brink of a red card. Where ever Jose was watching, he was powerless. This was a vintage performance by the Blaugrana.
The break couldn’t have come sooner for Madrid, but the game could have been so different. Cristiano Ronaldo played a pass through, fell over, onto Javier Mascherano, and despite Gonzalo Higuain burying the chance, the referee had called it back for a foul.
Deliberate? Never, but he did impede Mascherano, and that’s what mattered.
This proved to be but a minor speed bump, as Andres Iniesta showed why he is the "best player in the world not called Messi", and his pass through to Pedro was simply sublime. It defied description, the epitome of a slide-rule pass, and Pedro put in the finish to match.
He slid the ball past the helpless Iker Casillas, Barca were 1-0 up, and on the way to Wembley!
The Blaugrana were passing their way through the ninety minutes, and the quick movement of tha ball, and players, was in my eyes, humiliating to Madrid. This was a team that cost £300 million, being made to look like it cost 100 times less.
This proved to be a little premature, and Real managed to pull one back, as Marcelo finished the cut back after great work by Angel Di Maria.
A nervy finished looked on the cards, but Barca were never really threatened by this.
Best moment of the two legs, hell, the season?
Well, 89th minute, off comes Puyol, to a huge reception, the Catalan warrior, back where he belongs at the heart of the defence. Who comes on?
Back way ahead of schedule after an operation to remove a cancerous tumour on his liver. This man is the true hero in this squad. The ovation gave me goosebumps, this was a touching moment. All thanks to Pep Guardiola.
I don’t care if Mourinho is better, Guardiola is the better man.
Abidal was back, Barca were back, and as Manuel said:
"Bring on Manchester United!"
Of course, Schalke stand a chance, but it looks like Wembley will hosting a Champions League final with Barcelona and Manchester United playing the lead roles. Roll on Espanyol, and May 28th.
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