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FC Barcelona came through a tough examination by a spirited Real Madrid CF side as a riveting draw secured their place in the 28 May final at Wembley – scene of their first European Champion Clubs' Cup triumph.
Josep Guardiola's men sealed a 3-1 aggregate win after Pedro Rodríguez's glorious second-half opener was cancelled out by Marcelo. It was also a night of drama, skill and, ultimately, a Catalan victory that means the dream of a third UEFA Champions League title in six seasons is very much alive.
The remarkable amount of water which poured from the skies in the hour prior to kick-off did not help the hosts push and probe at a well-drilled Madrid defence, but as the surface dried the contest became slick.
Guardiola's team do not score many headed goals yet Xavi Hernández's 22nd-minute corner was so precise in its arc that only a slight misjudgement of his unmarked jump left Sergio Busquets heading into Iker Casillas's hands, not the net.
Ten minutes later Barça's trickle of chances became a flood. Lionel Messi danced across the penalty area and forced Casillas to save at full length. The mercurial No10 was again on song: just no one in white knew the tune. Twice Messi went close to adding to the two-goal cushion from last week's first leg. His chest control and shot brought peril and it became red alert when the Argentinian international dispossessed Lassana Diarra and released David Villa: Casillas had to produce his best save thus far.
The half ended with Madrid's exceptional, overworked goalkeeper launching himself to the ground to keep out yet another Messi effort. Without doubt, the goals were coming. The first arrived just nine minutes after the restart. Andrés Iniesta was the magical creator, curving the ball through a sea of white shirts – Xabi Alonso, Diarra and Raul Albiol – straight into the path of Pedro. One touch to control, another slap of his boot to score and Barça were seemingly out of sight.
To Madrid's credit the moment did not break them: far from it. The visitors stuck to the game plan, pressed and worked and finally got their reward ten minutes after falling behind. Ángel Di María gained his first glimpse of open space, cracked a fierce shot off Víctor Valdés' right-hand post and then showed the utmost calm to control the rebound and pass inside to Marcelo.
The Brazilian international edged in front of his marker, Javier Mascherano, and buried the chance with glee. Yet this was Barcelona's night, capping their performance with Éric Abidal's introduction late on, his first appearance since an operation to remove a liver tumour – the roar almost exceeded that of reaching Wembley. They could face Manchester United FC, 2-0 up against FC Schalke 04 ahead of Wednesday's second leg, in what would be a repeat of the 2009 showpiece.
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