Champions League: Pep Guardiola's FC Barcelona Book Their Place in the UCL Final
It wasn't the greatest of performances by Barcelona, but it could never have been; there was too much at stake. Barcelona saw their streak of nine consecutive home wins in Europe ended, but the 1-1 draw was enough to secure their place in the final.
Real Madrid were hardly threatening during the first half, and only Casillas's inspired night kept the score at 0-0. Both Messi and Villa were brilliantly denied by the Spanish keeper, while Real failed to create any clear-cut chances.
The second half was more of the same, but the goal finally came in the 54th minute. Andrés Iniesta's unparalleled vision was the reason behind it, as he sublimely assisted Pedro, who, as the world class finisher he is, easily slotted the ball into the back of the net.
With only 35 minutes to go and 3-0 up, it looked like Barcelona were already in the finals. But a rare mistake in Barcelona's passing game, in part due to the comfortable lead, allowed Real Madrid to find an unlikely equalizer by Marcelo, in the only time they shot on target during the match.
All the thoughts of a possible comeback were quickly dismissed though, as Barcelona simply made Real Madrid chase the ball for the rest of the match. Messi wasn't as great as in the first leg, but he did draw four yellow cards for Madrid players and created several goal chances. The star of the show was Iniesta, though. As always, Don Andrés stole the limelight on the big occasion, with another performance that shows just why Wayne Rooney and Samuel Eto'o consider him, and not Messi, the world's best player.
Do Barcelona Deserve to be in the Final?
The 90th minute saw the best moment of the match, and maybe of the season. After successfully fighting cancer, Abidal returned to the pitch, receiving a standing ovation from all Barcelona fans. In the end, during the celebrations, the players lifted him in a quite symbolic gesture. Abidal won the most difficult game of his life, and his teammates did him justice by giving him a chance to play in another Champions League final in the end of the month.
A beautiful moment to crown a great night for FC Barcelona and their supporters worldwide.
While Barcelona celebrated their third European final in six seasons, Real Madrid players came up with excuses and nonsensical conspiracy theories in the media. In a way, it was the 2010/2011 Clásicos in a nutshell: Real Madrid dominating the off-pitch action and Barcelona doing all their talking on the pitch to great effect.
If no surprises take place tomorrow, we'll have a repeat of the 2009 Final at Wembley. How fitting: Spain's best side against England's best side to decide the 2011 European champions. Both Barcelona and Manchester United have been dominating their domestic leagues for a while, and they have been the two most consistent teams in European competition over the past five seasons as well. It's hard to imagine a better final at the moment.
For now, though, it's time to celebrate. Barcelona are in the finals again at the expense of their eternal rivals. Another great triumph for Pep Guardiola's great footballing side!
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