Lionel Messi put on a masterclass as Barcelona gained a valuable 2-0 advantage over Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final.
In a spiteful encounter at the Bernabeu, Messi proved the matchwinner with a brilliant second-half double on Wednesday.
He grabbed his first in the 76th minute from close range, managing to connect onto Ibrahim Afellay’s cross to down Jose Mourinho’s men’s spirits.
The Argentine then doubled the advantage 11 minutes later when he skipped past three defenders before he placed the ball beyond goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ reach.
Messi’s two goals means he has notched 52 goals in all competitions for the Catalans, eclipsing Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42-goal haul for Manchester United in 2007/08.
A dull first half, in which there were few chances for either side as they looked to settle into the much-hyped affair, was then complemented by a more lively second term.
The game, however, was blighted by a half-time fracas that saw Barcelona reserve keeper Jose Manuel Pinto shown his marching orders.
Real Madrid’s Pepe, who was fielded in front of the defence, also saw red – in somewhat harsh circumstances – for his lunge on Brazilian Dani Alves in the 61st minute.
A frustrated Mourinho was also brandished the red card for his persistent remonstrations with the fourth official over Pepe’s sending off.
But two late goals from the World Player of the Year carved up a handy 2-0 lead for the reigning Spanish champions who look in the box seat for the Champions League final at Wembley, where they are likely to meet Manchester United, who also scored a 2-0 win in their respective semi-final first-leg tie against Germany’s Schalke.
The second leg will be played at the Camp Nou next Tuesday.
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