Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has sidestepped Real Madrid’s latest referee criticism and is already looking to the Champions League final.Barcelona progressed to the decider at Wembley in London on May 28 at the expense of arch-rivals Real Madrid, who Guardiola and his men were facing for the fourth time in 18 days.
True to form, Tuesday’s match was not without its controversy – even with Guardiola’s opposing manager Jose Mourinho reportedly watching from a nearby hotel room as he saw out a touchline ban for his sending off in last Wednesday’s first leg.
Gonzalo Higuain looked to have handed Real Madrid a lifeline when he found the back of the net early in the second half, but the goal was disallowed after referee Frank de Bleeckere ruled Barca midfielder Javier Mascherano had been fouled by Cristiano Ronaldo in the build up.
Pedro handed Barca a 3-0 aggregate lead when he scored from Andres Iniesta’s inch-perfect through ball in the 54th minute, with Marcelo pulling a goal back for Real Madrid 10 minutes later.
The match was to finish 1-1 and 3-1 on aggregate to Barcelona, but the decision to disallow Higuain’s strike drew immediate criticism from Real assistant coach Aitor Karanka and players Xabi Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas after the final whistle.
Having traded barbs with opposite number Jose Mourinho over the duration of their 20-day, four-game El Clasico series across three competitions, Guardiola seemed reluctant to buy into the latest comments from Real over officiating.
“I don’t have time for that,” he said.
“It has been a very tough 20 days and we have played four times against the strongest team and the richest team in the world, they can buy everything.”
“Many times the referee has an influence but we were very good in the first game and we were very good in the second game.”
For the final, Barcelona returns to the venue where the La Liga club won their first European Cup in 1992, with Guardiola delighted at the prospect: “Football is coming home, so it an honour to play at Wembley,” he said.
Iniesta said while it was important Barcelona enjoy the win over their bitter foes, his side’s attention should soon return to the decider against either Manchester United or Schalke.
“We have taken a very important step but we still have to play the final,” he said. “Hopefully we can get it right and win another Champions League for our supporters.”
Barca goalscorer Pedro praised Iniesta for the ‘great pass’ that allowed him to open the scoring at Camp Nou, and made clear who he believed his side would face at Wembley.
“I’m full of joy. It’s always tough to reach a Champions League final, and to have a match against a great team like Real Madrid has made things very difficult,” Pedro said.
“(Real) have great players, a superb team, and we are very pleased with the end result because it was very difficult. I felt a great sense of joy when I scored. Andres gave me a great pass, but in this game everyone gave a great level of input.”
“Hopefully we can win the final at Wembley, but we know it will be difficult because Manchester (United) have a great team.”