MADRID - Lionel Messi's sublime double
lifted Barcelona to a 2-0 win over bitter rivals Real Madrid and
lit up an acrimonious Champions League semi-final first leg in
which the hosts finished with 10 men and had coach Jose Mourinho
The Argentine World Player of the Year's clinical finish
from close range in the 76th minute and brilliant individual
strike three minutes from time gave Barca the spoils at a rowdy
Bernabeu on Wednesday in an attritional contest which was short
on entertaining football but rich in controversy.
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Bad blood had flowed between the sides in the lead-up to the
match, their third meeting in just over a week, and it spilled
on to the pitch as the players trooped off at the break.
Barca reserve goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto was shown a red
card following a fracas next to the tunnel, while Real defender
Pepe was dismissed for a lunging tackle on Daniel Alves with
just over half an hour left.
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Mourinho, who unleashed a sustained rant at his press
conference in which he accused UEFA of favouring Barca, was sent
to the stands for protesting the decision.
Messi's goals, his 10th and 11th in 11 games in this edition
of Europe's elite club competition, gave Barca a huge advantage
to take back to the Nou Camp next week.
The 23-year-old sped into the penalty area to meet Ibrahim
Afellay's low cross from the right and steer the ball past Iker
Casillas from close range to break the deadlock.
He followed that up with a wonderful second when he weaved
his way through the Real defence and slotted past Casillas to
give the Catalan side a two-goal cushion to take into Tuesday's
return leg in the Catalan capital.
Guardiola, who refused to respond to Mourinho's remarks
about UEFA, warned his players that they still had a good deal
of work to do in the second leg and said you could never write
off the nine-times winners.
"We played a very, very good match," he told a news
"We controlled the speed of their counter-attacks and their
aerial game which is very powerful," he added. "We got a good
result and I congratulate the team."
The Real fans turned the giant arena into a sea of white
flags before kick-off, while several thousand Barca faithful
waving Catalan banners high up in the stands tried to make
themselves heard above the din.
Real tore into Barca and stopped them playing in the first
half of last week's King's Cup Final, which the Madrid club won
1-0, but it was a different story on Wednesday as Barca
controlled without showing too much ambition in attack.
David Villa cut in from the right wing in the 11th minute
and sent a low drive whistling past the post and Messi sent Xavi
clear in the 25th but his effort was straight at Casillas.
The home side's best effort of the first half came moments
before the break when Cristiano Ronaldo tested Victor Valdes
with a swerving effort the Barca keeper just managed to block.
The second half was short on the kind of entertaining
football Real and Barca typically produce as the visitors again
dominated possession without ever really threatening the home
goal until Messi took matters into his own hands.
Mourinho said his team had no chance of reaching the final
and suggested that even if they managed to score a goal at the
Nou Camp the referee would somehow prevent them going through.
"We will go there with all the pride and respect for our
world of football," the Portuguese added.
"We might score a goal and that would open up the game but
they (UEFA) will kill us again."
In Tuesday's first semi-final, English Premier League
leaders Manchester United won 2-0 at Bundesliga side Schalke 04.
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