Soccer: Barcelona advance to Champions League final

By Christopher Chang

Barcelona 1 (3)
Real Madrid 1 (1)

Barcelona reached their seventh Champions League final today after a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Nou Camp Stadium, winning the semifinal 3-1 on aggregate.

Pedro opened the scoring for the Catalans on 54 minutes, before Marcelo levelled for the visitors midway through the second half.

The three-time winners of the competition will now face either Manchester United or Schalke 04 at Wembley on May 29.

A rematch of the 2009 Champions League final, the last time Barcelona won the competition, is most likely with Manchester United holding a 2-0 aggregate lead going into tomorrow's semifinal at Old Trafford.

The fourth 'El Clasico' in 18 days began in entertaining fashion. Real Madrid, competing in their first semi-final since 2003, started the match brightly. Ronaldo and Marcelo provided most of the attacking threat, with Lassana Diarra doing well to shackle Barcelona's counter-attacks.

After the first five minutes, Barcelona settled into its usual rhythm of play as Messi started to probe the Madrid defence. A Messi break on 34 minutes led to David Villa's attempted curling shot towards the far post, which Iker Casillas did well to keep out.

The Madrid keeper kept the away side in contention with a series of saves - all seven shots in the first half came from Barcelona players.



Despite the absence of manager Jose Mourinho, suspended from the first leg, Madrid began the second half in similar fashion to the first. Ronaldo burst through the heart of the Barcelona defence and the ball fell to Higuain, whose goal was disallowed for an alleged foul by Ronaldo on Mascherano.

On 54 minutes, sustained Barcelona pressure led to the first breakthrough of the match. Iniesta's through-ball sliced through the Madrid backline to send Pedro through on goal. He made no mistake from 18 yards, slotting past Casillas.

Marcelo gave Real Madrid hope of a comeback on 64 minutes after Angel Di Maria's left-footed drive crashed against the post. The Argentine did well to control the rebound from his own shot and had the presence of mind to lay it off to his Brazilian counterpart.

However, Madrid failed to build any momentum and Pep Guardiola's side never looked in any real danger of conceding again.

Eric Abidal made a late appearance for Barcelona, returning to action less than two months after having surgery to remove a tumour from his liver.

Barcelona, who won their first European Cup in 1992 at the old Wembley Stadium, held on to a comfortable 2-goal advantage to seal a return to the final in London.

- HERALD ONLINE

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