Watched on by a capacity pro-Barcelona crowd totalling 40,952, the UEFA Champions League winners rallied from a goal down to beat the CONCACAF Champions Cup winners.
Barcelona will take on Copa Libertadores winners Estudiantes in the final on December 19. Atlante FC will meet Pohang Steelers in the play-off for third place on the same day.
The Catalans who had lost their way a bit in the first half and had levelled through Sergio Busquets, had to rely on the ‘Messi Magic’ to take them through. Messi came off the bench in the 55th minute and scored in the same minute to pilot the Spanish giants home.
Sergio Busquets scored in the 35th minute, Lionel Messi scored in the 55th minute and Pedro rounded it off in the 67th minute. Guillermo Rojas scored in the fifth minute for Atlante.
Despite the packed Stadium rooting for the Spanish giants, the small boys from Mexico were fired up for the game. Their forwards were menacing, the midfield controlled the game and the defence stood up well to the Barcelona forwards.
In fact, they scored off their first foray in just the fifth minute of play after the Barcelona defence lay in tatters. Midfielder Guillermo Rojas made a fine interception of a long ball in and Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes charged out of his citadel. And despite defender Dani Alves tailing him, Rojas had the legs over him and nudged his left-footer into goal.
Barca threatened two minutes later but only just as Sergio Busquets’s dangerous header off a Xavi corner was collected by goalkeeper and captain Federico Vilar.
Barcelona defender Dani Alves received a yellow card for a foul on old rival Santiago Solari. The lanky Solari has played for Real Madrid in the Spanish League.
The Barcelona defence was all over the place again and Fernando Navarro could have got Atlante’s second just five minutes after the opening goal. Navarro slipped through the Barca defence and had just the goalkeeper Victor Valdes to beat but captain Carles Puyol, who tailed him, made contact just at the nick of time and deflected the ball away.
Stung by the early reverse, Barcelona hit their strides and almost got the equaliser in the 26th minute but their charismatic playmaker Andre Iniesta’s swerving left-footer sailed over the cross bar.
Later, in the 33rd minute, the rocker-looking Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who moved from Italian club Inter Milan this season, fired a threatening free kick just over the cross bar.
But they didn’t have to wait long for the equaliser as Sergio Busquets drew level for Barca just after the half hour mark. The unmarked Busquets drove his grounder home from a Yaya Toure header off a Xavi corner in the 35th minute.
The Catalans could have gone into the break 2-1 but Dani Alves, who charged down the right flank, muffed his shot when he just had the goalkeeper to beat. The Brazilian sent his shot wide of the post.
The whole stadium erupted with chants of “Messi, Messi” in the 55th minute as coach Pep Guardiola brought in the Argentine ace in place of Yaya Toure. He made a double substitution bringing on Gerard Pique for Rafael Marquez.
And Messi, who was a doubtful starter for the game because of an ankle injury sustained during their Champions League match against Dynamo Kiev last Wednesday, responded by doubling the lead off his first touch on the ball in the very same minute he came on.
The European Footballer of the Year sent it home from close range after being put in by Iniesta. And despite the goalkeeper Federico Velar getting a bit of hand on it, the ball rolled in.
Messi’s arrival sparked Barca’s revival and they were in the zone now and scored a third through Pedro in the 67th minute after some neat groundwork by playmaker Iniesta.
Atlante could had reduced the deficit but Rafael Marquez’s shot was averted by goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the 76th minute. Photo credited to gettyimage.