Tuesday 16 January 2018

Spanish media split over Barca's victory

Barcelona's joy at reaching the Champions League final and Real Madrid's fury at more perceived refereeing injustice split the Spanish media's reaction to last night's semi-final second leg.

Barca progressed through to their third Champions League final in six years after a 1-1 draw at a rain-drenched Nou Camp saw them record a 3-1 aggregate victory over their arch rivals Madrid, and they will face either Manchester United or Schalke at Wembley.

Like the first leg though, last night's clash was not without controversy with Madrid, having seen Pepe sent off in the first meeting, again left fuming by a refereeing decision after official Frank de Bleeckere ruled out a Gonzalo Higuain goal when the match was still 0-0.

That decision, which followed Madrid coach Jose Mourinho's insinuations following the first leg that Barca receive favourable treatment from referees, dominated the front pages of Madrid-based sports dailies Marca and AS.

Marca's headline read: "It was mission impossible", echoing a comment from Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo following the match.

The newspaper continued: "Another dreadful refereeing decision thwarts Madrid's fightback. De Bleeckere invented a foul against CR7 (Ronaldo) that prevented Higuain making it 1-0. Indignation from Madrid with the referee and with UEFA. The Whites say goodbye to the 10th (European Cup title) with dignity and courage."

Marca also used quotes from Madrid captain Iker Casillas and Ronaldo to emphasise Madrid's anger, with Casillas saying "they have robbed us of the final."

AS followed a similar line, saying on their front page, which featured picture of Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso protesting to De Bleeckere: "Easy Mou, it's nothing personal, only business.

"In Madrid it was Pepe; in Barcelona, a goal stolen away.

"De Bleeckere confirmed the expectations raised at his appointment."

Following last week's first leg Mourinho read out a list of officials he believes have made decisions which have benefited Barca in previous years, with De Bleeckere among them after sending off Thiago Motta in last season's last-four clash between Inter Milan, then managed by Mourinho, and Barca.

Television replays later showed there had been little contact between Motta and Sergio Busquets.

Like Marca, AS also used post-match comments from Madrid about the officiating, with assistant coach Aitor Karanka - who sat on the bench in place of the suspended Mourinho - and director general Jorge Valdano the men quoted.

The reaction to last night's match in Catalan-based sports newspapers El Mundo Deportivo and Sport was in stark contrast to their counterparts from the Spanish capital as they lauded Barca's success, plus the return of Eric Abidal, on their front pages.

El Mundo Deportivo's headline was: "To Wembley! Barca deserved finalists against a Madrid who returned to claim victimisation."

At the top of their front page the paper also had a picture of Abidal being tossed in the air by his team-mates after the match, with the caption: "The reappearance of the full-back was the other happy news of a great night."

Abidal had been a surprise inclusion in coach Pep Guardiola's squad for the match, with the Frenchman having not played since undergoing an operation in mid-March to remove a tumour on his liver.

The France international came on as a late replacement for Carles Puyol last night.

Sport used a similar image of Abidal being hoisted into the air by jubilant Barca players as their main front page picture, along with the headline: "Goodbye Madrid, we're going to Wembley.

"Barca qualified for the Champions League final on an emotional night that even saw Abidal return to play."

In other Spanish newspapers not specifically dedicated to sport, El Mundo's had on their front page: "Barca knock out Madrid after a new referring error in their favour."

Meanwhile, El Pais, in their sports pages, spoke of "intelligence beating cunning. Barcelona, finalists at the expense of a Madrid more ambitious than in the three previous Clasicos."

Press Association

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