On a night when the ugly face of Spanish football reared its head at the Bernabeu, the planet’s best footballer Lionel Messi flattened Real Madrid’s 10-men with a devastating double that was out of this world.
But this was a shameful semi-final in stark contrast to the breathtaking display of footballing brilliance by Manchester United in Germany 24 hours earlier.
With Barca and United now surely destined to meet in the Champions League Final after their respective 2-0 first leg wins at Madrid and Schalke, the purists among us will be hoping for a return to the beautiful game in the Wembley showpiece on May 28 to wipe away the memory of a shocking beast of a match in the Spanish Capital.
With Madrid manager Jose Mourinho sent to the stands and his defensive bruiser Pepe sent to the dressing room for a late tackle in the 61st minute, the home side’s resistence was finally broken by two stunning late strikes from the Catalans’ Argentinian genious. But Messi’s magic apart this was a snarling eyesore of a match so far removed from the beautiful game that FIFA ordered an unprecedented post-match cooling off period before either side was allowed to face the TV cameras.
Fired up by the pre-match verbal jousting between rival managers Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, this was a hostile clash laced with pure hatred.
It was a streetfight that simmered from the start and erupted at the interval with players and officials from both sides squaring up in an ugly confrontation around the tunnel that ended with Barca’s reserve keeper Pinto being sent off. Well done FIFA for stepping in after the final whistle to prevent the simmering hostility from continuing in front of the cameras when broadcasters were told there would be no interviews permitted until both camps had time to calm down.
Bernabeu resembled Spanish bullfight until Messi’s devastating double flattened Madrid