Xavi Hernández was full of praise of what he felt was a superior performance from FC Barcelona in their 2-0 UEFA Champions League semi-final first-leg win at Real Madrid CF.
Their spirits not broken by a Copa del Rey final defeat Madrid a week before, Barcelona took a positive approach at the Santiago Bernabéu. However, it was not until the 76th minute, a quarter-hour after Pepe's sending-off for Madrid, that Lionel Messi managed to open the scoring after connecting with Ibrahim Afellay's centre and the Argentina forward produced a sublime second to put his side in touch of the Wembley final.
"I think that in general we were the better team; we came here to play our football," Xavi said. "Madrid hardly pushed forward and defended as much as they could. We took advantage of [Pepe's] sending off and created more goal chances from then on and I think today we saw the right result."
Although Xavi was missing usual midfield partner Andrés Iniesta - who was a late withdrawal from the squad with a calf injury – the 31-year-old Spanish international felt the visitors coped admirably in his absence. "We obviously missed Andrés," Xavi said. "He is a player who gives us that ability to throw the opposition off balance as he can play through the middle and on either wing. Having said that, his replacement [Seydou] Keita did a tremendous job working upfield and winning balls for us."
Xavi also singled out team-mate Afellay, who came on to replace Pedro, for special praise after the Dutch substitute set up Messi for Barça's opener. "He did extremely well after coming on; it was a great assist for the first goal," Xavi said.
"For the second goal – as you saw – Messi produced something marvellous," he added.
"Overall though I thought in defence, in attack and when it came to keeping the ball we were excellent; we were deserved winners."
Having offered his post-game analysis to the hundreds of journalists packing the Madrid press zone, Barcelona's record appearance-holder ended by sounding a warning to his team-mates ahead of Tuesday's second leg. "There are still 90 minutes to go against Madrid who as a club have pulled off big comebacks in the past," Xavi concluded. "With a return encounter to come, anything can happen."
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