Guardiola relieved he’s finally free to focus on Barca’s Wembley date


Barcelona win 3-1 on aggregate

BARCELONA manager Pep Guardiola admitted he’s glad to see the back of the four-game marathon with Real Madrid after his side booked their place in the Champions League final later this month.

Leading 2-0 following last week’s highly controversial first leg at the Bernabeu, Barca killed off any hope of a Madrid comeback when Pedro struck in the 54th minute having been released by Andres Iniesta’s defence splitting pass.

Real’s Brazil full-back Marcelo, who had been at the centre of a pre-match race storm, levelled matters on the night 10 minutes later, but Barca held onto their advantage with the minimum of fuss allowing Guardiola the opportunity to reflect on another notable achievement.

He said: “I don’t have time for talking about Madrid or referees any more. It has been a tough 20 days and we have played the richest team in the world many times.

“The referee may have had an influence but we were very good in the second match. Let the people judge the decision of the referee, but now let us enjoy this day.

“Football is coming home so it is an honour to play at Wembley. We won our first Champions League in 1992 at the old Wembley and we are ever so proud for our club and players.”

The result may have been different had Gonzalo Higuain’s strike not been controversially disallowed three minutes before Pedro increased Barcelona’s aggregate lead.

Referee Frank De Bleeckere had already blown for a free-kick when Javier Mascherano, the covering defender, had been accidentally clipped by Cristiano Ronaldo before Higuain located the back of Victor Valdes’ net. And Real’s former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso felt the performance of the referees cost his side a place in the Wembley final over the course of both legs. He said: “When we scored the first goal it would have been totally different and we feel so many bad decisions have been made against us and we are not happy about that.

“We think we did a good job but decisions went against us, we really feel that way. It would have changed everything, our position would have been much stronger and after that it was much more difficult.”

Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka also claimed the performance of the officials proved his side had no chance of making it through to the Wembley showpiece.

“(Jose) Mourinho was right,” Karanka said. “He said that it would be impossible for us to go through after the first leg. Tonight proved that it was impossible and 100 million people saw it – there is nothing more to add.

“Of the four games we have played against Barcelona, we have drawn two and won another. We can be proud of how we have done, what we have achieved and we fought right up until the very end.”

54 mins: Having kept Barca at bay almost on his own, Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas was finally beaten when Andres Iniesta’s eye of the needle pass was controlled and dispatched clinically by Pedro.

64 mins: Real were given an unlikely lifeline when Xabi Alonso slipped in Angel Di Maria. The Argentine’s shot hit the post but he collected the rebound and squared for Marcelo who swept home from close range

90 mins: Eric Abidal made his first appearance since an operation on a tumour in his liver two months ago. The France defender came on as a last minute substitute and was at the centre of the post match celebrations.