Down And Out: Mourinho, Ronaldo, Real

"Football justice was served. The best team got through." - Xavi Hernandez
Barcelona players jumped in celebration after four tense games against Real Madrid over 18 days, they were going to Wembley for the Champions League final. Pedro Rodriguez scored off a perfect through pass from Andres Iniesta in the 54th minute, Eric Abidal made an emotional return from surgery to remove a liver tumor and Barcelona completed a 3-1 aggregate win with a 1-1 tie on the second leg.

Barcelona are Seeking their fourth Champions League title and third in six years and will play either Manchester United or Schalke in the final on May 28. "Football justice was served. The best team got through," Xavi Hernandez said after the match.

Jose Mourinho apparently was absent, following his ejection during Barcelona's 2-0 win at Madrid last Wednesday, he was said to be watching from the team hotel. Mourinho accused referees of a conspiracy to assist Barcelona, and Cristiano Ronaldo echoed those complaints. To appease Real Madrid, UEFA sent the refereeing godfather, Pierluigi Collina, to oversee the performance of Franck De Bleeckere, the Belgian official picked out by Mourinho as one of the five who had delivered major decisions against his teams.

While last week's match was dominated by fights, diving and accusations of feigned injuries, this was a cleaner and crisper match. Barcelona controlled the ball once again, as it did in its previous meetings with Madrid this season - a 5-0 league win in November, a 1-1 league draw on April 16, a 1-0 overtime win by Madrid in the Copa del Rey final four days later and in last week's match.

Rodriguez gave Barcelona a three-goal lead after scoring his 21st goal of the season when he gathered Iniesta's pass alone inside the area and beat goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Madrid cut the deficit with its first goal at Camp Nou since 2007 in the 64th minute. Xabi Alonso stole the ball and fed Angel Di Maria, whose shot hit the near post and came right back to him. Maria squared the ball to Marcelo, who scored on Real Madrid's only shot on goal.

For the first time in five meetings between the rivals this year, Real Madrid managed not to have any players ejected - although five were given yellow cards.

Casillas kept the visitors close with a number of big saves in the first half on Lionel Messi, who was fouled 11 times during the match. While Gonzolo Higuain put the ball into the net past goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the 47th minute, it was called off when Ronaldo was whistled for a foul by referee De Bleeckere. Ronaldo went down under a challenge from Gerard Pique and, in falling, clipped the heel of Javier Mascherano with his back.

Mourinho faces an uncertain future following a disappointing first season that produced just one trophy: the Copa del Rey. Los Blancos trail Barcelona by eight points in La Liga with four games remaining and have been criticized by former Real great Alfredo Di Stefano for their defensive tactics. It is time for Mourinho to reach for his scribbling pad and plan for the future while Barcelona to celebrate their superiority in a four-game series that threatened to relocate to the politics pages, and leaves a pile of disciplinary issues still to face.



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