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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona: Mourinho ‘Peppered’ as Pepe Red Card Puts Barca on Pole

Mourinho gives assistant referee a wink
Barcelona’s mercurial superstar Lionel Messi scored a brace in the final fifteen minutes to give his team a 2-0 win over archrivals Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu. Messi’s 76th minute goal from an Ibrahim Afellay cross and a sublime solo effort in the 87th minute put the Blaugrana in the driving seat in the two-legged encounter as the 18-day, four-match odyssey reached its penultimate stage.

The highly tensed but extremely poor match ended in a stalemate at half time. As the players moved down the tunnel into the dressing room, a fracas emerged between the two teams which saw Barcelona reserve keeper Jose Manuel Pinto given his marching orders.

 The second half started much brighter and although Madrid were losing on possession at 29% to Barca’s 71% immediately after the break, they were the ones getting in Barca’s faces and creating chances. However, the game took a crucial turn that has been customary in the last five El Clasicos where a Real Madrid player has been red carded. This time, it was Portuguese defender Pepe who was sent off on the half hour mark when he lunged on Daniel Alves and German referee Wolfgang Stark went for the red and not yellow card in his pocket.

The sending off frustrated Mourinho on the touchline and he was also sent to the stands with a red card. From this moment, Barca took control, or should I say, Messi took control.

The credit for the Argentine’s first goal could all go to second half substitute Ibrahim Afellay. The Dutchman twisted and turned Marcelo on the right flank before crossing for Messi who simply tucked the ball between Casillas’ legs to score his 10th goal in the competition and give Barca the lead. 

The second goal, a sublime solo effort, fully demonstrated why Messi is considered by many as the best player of his generation.

The diminutive Argentine collected the ball 30 yards from the goal, eased past Lassana Diara, cruised past Raul Albiol, dogged Marcelo and Sergio Ramos before rolling the ball past a helpless and faultless Los Blancos custodian Iker Casillas.  

 It was the 11th goal in the Champions league this season for the unplayable 23-year-old Argentine who could equal or surpass Ruud van Nistelrooy’s Champions league high of 12 in a season if he scores against Madrid in the return leg next Tuesday or in the final if they get there which looks highly likely. 

Thus, it looks likely that this season’s Champions League final at Wembley on 28 May will be a repeat of 2008–09 season when Barca and Manchester United (who hold a 2-0 first leg advantage over Schalke 04) contested the final. Barca won the match 2-0 with Samuel Eto’o and Messi scoring the goals at Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

But before then, all eyes and attention shift to next Tuesday when Real Madrid, without Pepe and Sergio Ramos who are both suspended, will try to stage a comeback and beat Pep Guardiola’s men at the Camp Nou. Real will miss the presence of Mourinho on the touchline after the dismissal and so will the suspended Pepe and Sergio Ramos.Khedira and Fernando Gago are still nursing injuries and will not be fit for the match. Barca will miss reserve keeper Pinto after his dramatic red card, while Abidal, Adriano and Maxwell are also unlikely to feature due to injuries. 

Barca however will do with the return of Andres Iniesta in the middle of the pack while Real will consider the return of Carvaloh a bonus in the defence.

Tuesday can't come any faster.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!