Messi rises above the theatrics to crush Madrid’s dream


BARCELONA have one foot in next month’s Champions League final at Wembley after Lionel Messi’s outrageous late brace secured a first leg semi-final victory at the Bernabeu against 10-man Real Madrid.

In an ugly match, marred by a half-time brawl which saw Barcelona’s reserve goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto sent-off, Messi proved the difference with a poachers flick at the near post and a wonderful individual effort.

Real manager Jose Mourinho employed typically conservative tactics in a bid to stifle Barca’s attacking threat and his plan appeared to be working until Dani Alves made the most of Pepe’s clumsy, but far from malicious, 61st minute lunge which referee Wolfgang Stark deemed worthy of a red card.

Mourinho was sent to the stands for his sarcastic response to the decision and his misery was compounded just 15 minutes later when substitute Ibrahim Affelay darted past Marcelo and his cross was stabbed home by Messi for his 51st goal of a quite astonishing season. Goal no52 arrived three minutes from time when Sergio Busquets allowed Messi to take the ball off his toes and the Argentina foward accelerated away from Lassana Diarra, skated past three more defenders and rolled the ball beyond Iker Casillas with his weaker right foot.

“Another miracle with 10 men wasn’t possible,” said an angry Mourinho, whose side were overwhelmed 5-0 on their previous visit to Camp Nou this season

“Yes, I think we are eliminated. We will go with everything and to get a result but I can’t see it.

“We will be without Pepe and (Sergio) Ramos who didn’t do anything and neither did I. I just want to know why? Why did Pepe get sent off? I just want someone to explain. Why did it happen?

“If I say what I think my career ends today. I’m disgusted at the world we live in.”

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, who gave an extraordinary pre-match press conference littered with expletives, refused to be drawn on Mourinho’s comments, but defender Gerard Pique claimed Real got what they deserved.

He said: [Madrid] play at the limit of violence. If you play with fire, you can end up burning yourself. It’s always the same, they didn’t want to play football at their own stadium.”