Real Madrid CF 1-1 FC Barcelona (Agg: 3-1)
Real Madrid CF reached the UEFA Champions League final after drawing 1-1 with FC Barcelona tonight to win the semi-final 3-1 on aggregate.
In the end the battle of these Spanish heavyweights was all but over by half-time. That was when Madrid's homegrown star Raúl González latched on to a ball just outside the area and blasted his shot into the Barcelona net to end any realistic hope the Catalans may have harboured of turning round this tense semi-final. Now Madrid must take on Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Hampden Park to fufil what they see as their destiny in this, their centenary season
The game went ahead despite an extraordinary afternoon, when two explosions in Madrid, one of them close to the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, shook the Spanish capital, injuring nine people. The decision to play the match was taken at a security meeting involving police, the local authorities, officials from both clubs and the UEFA match delegate held just two hours before the scheduled kick-off.
When the match did finally get going, the visitors started much the brighter, Vicente del Bosque's side content to sit on their two-goal advantage from the first leg at the Camp Nou last Tuesday. Yet for all of Xavi Hernández's probing from the midfield and the battling efforts of Luis Enrique, it was the home side who had the clearer chances, Zinedine Zidane, José María Guti and then Raúl, the man of the match, all going close in the first half-hour.
Then late in the half Barcelona's world came crashing down. In the 39th minute, Brazilian midfield player Fabio Rochemback fired in a cross that Philip Cocu diverted on to the post, Patrick Kluivert just failing to reach the rebound. And, just minutes later, some magic from Raúl changed the course of the match as he scored the goal that left Carles Rexach's team an impossible task.
To their credit, Barcelona came out fighting and scored four minutes into the second half, Iván Helguera diverting past his own goalkeeper after Cocu's cross from the right had been cleverly flicked on by Javier Saviola. And Luis Enrique, who fought manfully throughout, should have done better when his shot went agonisingly close 20 minutes later, while the otherwise anonymous Kluivert also missed late on with the goal at his mercy, but by then it was all over.
Madrid now take on Leverkusen on 15 May at Hampden Park looking for their third European title in five years. And a clue to the outcome could be that they have played the German side four times in the Champions League and have never lost. They also employ the holy trinity of current world footballing talent in Zidane, Luis Figo and Raúl, who also happens to be the competition's most prolific ever goalscorer at the tender age of 24. But one thing Leverkusen have shown this season is that they are no respecters of tradition.
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