Football

Barca battle to Bernabeu victory

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Football News
24/7

Lionel Messi struck twice late on as Barcelona took a huge step towards the Champions League final with a 2-0 semi-final, first leg win over 10-man Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Messi, taking his tally to 52 in all competitions this season, netted in the 76th and 87th minutes - the second a typically brilliant solo effort - to settle an ill-tempered clash which saw Madrid defender Pepe sent off in the 61st minute.

That incident also saw Madrid coach Jose Mourinho - who sparked a war of words with counterpart Pep Guardiola on Tuesday - sent to the stands, while Barca reserve goalkeeper Jose Pinto was also shown a red card following an incident at half-time.

Xavi tested Iker Casillas with a well-struck volley early on, while the Barca schemer also had the best chance of the opening period in the 24th minute after latching onto Messi's pass. However, he was again denied by Spain team-mate Casillas, who blocked his low shot.

Madrid fans had to wait until just before half-time to see their side give Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes something to think about. Cristiano Ronaldo tried his luck from 25 yards and the ball rebounded back off Valdes' chest. Mesut Ozil looked set to net as he followed up, but Valdes saved his effort and an offside flag would have ruled out any goal anyway.

As the players left the field following an increasingly niggly first half, there was a melee between the sides as they entered the tunnel that resulted in Pinto receiving a red card.

Both sides had half-chances at the start of the second period, with Messi and Ronaldo seeing efforts blocked, before Madrid defender Sergio Ramos picked up a yellow card which rules him out of the second leg.

Much worse was to follow for Madrid though as they were reduced to 10 men when Pepe was shown a straight red card following a challenge on Dani Alves. That was the fourth time in four clashes with Barca this season that Madrid have had a player sent off, and Mourinho's anger on the touchline resulted in him being sent to the stands.

Barca took the lead when substitute Ibrahim Afellay did well to create space down the right and his low cross was turned in by Messi running in at the front post.

Messi was not finished and struck a brilliant second with three minutes remaining to leave Barca with one foot in the final. The Argentina ace dribbled past several Madrid defenders at pace before sliding a right-footed shot past Casillas.

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Topics:
European News
Football
UEFA Champions League
Cristiano Ronaldo

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