Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez shared the limelight as Barcelona hit back
from an early deficit against Atlante to progress through to the final of the
Club World Cup and stay on track for a remarkable sixth trophy in 2009.
Messi had been struggling with an ankle injury prior to the game and started
among the replacements but his introduction in the 53rd minute paid immediate
dividends as within 60 seconds he had put Barca 2-1 in front.
Then 12 minutes later Pedro wrote his name into the record books when he netted
Barca's third, becoming the first player to score in six different competitions
in the same season having already been on the scoresheet in the Primera
Division, Champions League, Copa del Rey and the Spanish and European
Barca won all five of those competitions and they remained on course to add the
Club World Cup to their already bulging trophy cabinet following tonight's
victory over Atlante in Abu Dhabi.
The Mexican side threatened a shock upset when they took a fourth-minute lead
through Guillermo Rojas but Sergio Busquets drew Barca level in the 35th minute
and those two second-half goals from Messi and Pedro earned Pep Guardiola's side
a final showdown against Estudiantes on Saturday.
For a short while it looked as though it could be Jose Cruz's Atlante side
progressing though to a final showdown with the Copa Libertadores champions as
they went ahead from the first chance of the match.
Atlante goalkeeper Federico Vilar launched a long free-kick forward, which
Barca defenders Rafael Marquez and Dani Alves allowed to bounce between them,
and Rojas nipped in, lobbed the ball over Victor Valdes and then slid the ball
into an empty net just before it went wide.
Barca, who had won eight of their previous nine competitive games heading into
this match and only lost once all season, must have been stunned to fall behind
so early, and it might have been even worse had Fernando Navarro made the most
of his opportunity in the 11th minute.
Navarro was put in the clear but instead of taking on the shot himself he
decided to pass the ball inside and the chance ended up being lost.
That proved to be a costly miss as Barca soon got into their stride.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andres Iniesta both tried their luck before Busquets,
who had earlier brought a good save out of Vilar, drew the European champions
Xavi's corner flicked off the head of Yaya Toure and Busquets showed quick
reactions to volley home at the far post.
Alves had a chance to put Barca ahead right on the stroke of half-time but he
fired into the side-netting with only Vilar to beat.
Barca need not have fretted, though, as 10 minutes into the second half they
were ahead thanks to Messi.
The Argentinian had only been on the pitch a matter of moments when he picked
up a brilliant pass from Ibrahimovic on the edge of the area and skipped past
Vilar before rolling the ball into the net.
Barca then ensured their passage through to the final as Pedro netted his
record-breaking goal soon after.
Iniesta created the chance with a superb run and pass, and Pedro took advantage
to fire in from close range.
Atlante could have set up a grandstand finish if Rafael Marquez had made the
most of his great chance in the 74th minute but Valdes produced a magnificent
save when one-on-one and after that it was only really Barca who looked like
adding to the scoreline.