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Sports

Barcelona snag victory over rivals Real Madrid

Barcelona left Madrid in good standing for a Champions League victory. The game got off to a slow start after the Catalans complained about the field. Barca took their time in scoring before going in for the kill.

Real Madrid's Lassana Diarra, center, battles with Barcelona's Seydou Keita

Barcelona hogged the ball from the get-go

Barcelona appeared poised to take their third soccer Champions League final in five years after defeating rivals Real Madrid 2-0 on Wednesday in a bad-tempered semi-final first leg.

Two second-half goals by Lionel Messi gave the Catalan side a 2-0 victory at Real Madrid to take control of the tie ahead of the second leg next week.

Although Barca went out onto the Santiago Bernabeu pitch complaining about the long grass and Real's refusal to have the field watered, the team dominated from the beginning, with 71 percent possession throughout the game.

Yet Barca didn't break through until the second half, after Madrid's Pepe was red-carded in the 61st minute. Coach Jose Mourinho soon joined his defender in the stands after protesting the decision, which left Madrid playing with 10 men against Barcelona for the fourth straight game.

Messi opened the scoring in the 76th minute when he put substitute Ibrahim Afellay's cross through goalkeeper Iker Casillas's legs. Then the Argentina forward bypassed three defenders before slotting home his 52nd goal of the season in the 87th minute.

For Barcelona it was the perfect redemption, after losing the King's Cup a week ago. The team now aims to finish the job at home in Spain and reach their first La Liga final since 2009, when they won the trophy as part of a historic treble.

Barcelona's Daniel Alves from Brazil, center, reacts as the referee shows him a yellow card

Barcelona's Daniel Alves (c) received one of the game's five yellow cards

On Tuesday, Manchester United took a giant leap towards the final, which will be played in London's Wembley stadium, when they won 2-0 at Schalke through goals by Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.

Author: David Levitz (AFP, AP, dpa)

Editor: Sarah Harman

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