FC Barcelona took a giant stride towards a second UEFA Champions League final in three seasons after Lionel Messi struck twice in the final 15 minutes, the second a memorable solo strike, to earn victory at ten-man Real Madrid CF, according to uefa.com.
The third game between these eternal rivals in less than a fortnight proved just as intense as the first two, the balance tipping decisively in Barca’s favour a minute past the hour when Pepe’s dismissal left Madrid a man short. Messi made them pay with two late goals, touching in a low cross from substitute Ibrahim Afellay to break the deadlock and then slaloming his way past four players to score a second that leaves Madrid with it all to do at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.
Madrid’s momentum was checked in the 61st minute when Pepe was shown a red card for a high challenge on Daniel Alves, Mourinho being sent to the stands for his own protests. Barcelona quickly regained the upper hand, Villa bringing the best out of Casillas after cutting in from the left.
Messi then took over, although his first goal owed much to Afellay, the substitute exploiting a Marcelo slip to advance into the penalty area and provide a cross that was steered in at the near post for Messi’s tenth goal in this season’s competition. The Argentinian needed little help for his 11th three minutes from time, collecting a pass from Sergio Busquets just inside the Madrid half and racing past four defenders before slotting past the exposed Casillas.
In addition to Pepe, Madrid will also be without Sergio Ramos – booked early in the second half – in Barcelona next week. The Catalan club, meanwhile, are within touching distance of another final, possibly a repeat of the 2009 showpiece against Manchester United FC.
Jose Mourinho, Madrid coach, told uefa.com: “Barcelona are a great team but without the red card I think the game would have ended goalless. Against ten players they could play much easier. The second game in Barcelona will be very difficult, almost impossible. I had a miracle last year with FC Internazionale Milano in the Camp Nou, but at this time Madrid are out. We will go to Barcelona with all our pride and full of respect, but without Pepe and [Sergio] Ramos it will be very difficult.
In his turn Josep Guardiola, Barcelona coach said: “We are lucky to have Messi; at the age of 23, he’s the third top scorer in our club’s history and that’s impressive. It’s the beauty of our attacking style. We have corrected some things from the Copa del Rey final, things we did wrong. Playing several times against the same team means that we know each other better than ever, so we must be careful. We have not reached the final. We’ve only won 2-0 in the first leg”.