Atlante 1-3 Barcelona: The Blaugrana Fight Back To Clinch Final Berth

The Catalonians eventually showed their class to defeat the Mexicans.
Atlante 1-3 Barcelona
Club World Championship Fixtures/Results

Barcelona are through to the World Club Championship final to face Estudiantes after coming from a goal down to defeat Mexican champions Atlante 3-1 in Abu Dhabi.

Guillermo Rojas had given Los Potros de Hierro a stunning lead after just four minutes, but the Spanish side eventually found their rhythm and goals from Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi and Pedro handed Pep Guardiola's squad a deserved place in the showpiece event on Saturday.

Barcelona were considered massive favorites to make it through to the final prior to kick-off, and Guardiola opted to leave talismanic forward Lionel Messi on the substitutes bench, instead starting with a front three of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andres Iniesta and Pedro.

But the Blaugrana could not have envisaged a worst start to the match, as the Mexicans flew from the blocks to take the lead after just four minutes. Guillermo Rojas ran beyond the static Carlos Puyol and Dani Alves to lift the ball over Victor Valdes and slide the ball into the empty net.

It was a shocking goal to concede by the Spanish champions, and their ineptness defensively continued as their offside trap was sprung by Fernando Navarro. However, the midfielder was indecisive when bearing down on Valdes and his cutback eluded his team-mates.

Barcelona enjoyed the huge majority of possession for the remainder of the half, but their play lacked any incision as Atlante defended stoutly on the edge of their 18-yard box.

Long-range efforts from Iniesta and Yaya Toure whizzed over, while an ambitious Ibrahimovic free-kick flew over the crossbar, as Guardiola’s side grew frustrated at their inability to penetrate the Mexicans' goal.

However, the equalizer arrived at a timely moment before the interval, and it took a set-piece routine to drew the European champions level. Xavi’s corner was flicked on by Toure and Sergio Busquets instinctively drilled the ball under the body of Federico Vilar.

Barcelona sensed an opportunity to go into half-time with the lead, and it should have arrived as Dani Alves burst in on goal from one of his trademark forays forward on the right, but he could only shoot into the side-netting and it remained 1-1 at the break.

Guardiola recognized his side’s lack of invention and introduced Lionel Messi seven minutes into the second period. His reshuffle paid immediate dividends as the Argentine put the Catalan giants in front.

Ibrahimovic slid an exquisite through pass into the path of the Ballon d’Or winner, and he rounded Vilar to roll the ball home via the flailing hand of the goalkeeper, to give his side a lead that their dominance of play deserved.

Barcelona were beginning to further exert their influence on proceedings as the match progressed, with Atlante’s flying start looking more and more to be a distant memory, and a two-goal cushion arrived on 66 minutes thanks to a lovely move.

Once again Ibrahimovic was involved, sending Iniesta clear on the left, and the Spaniard drew two defenders towards him before flicking a lovely pass to Pedro, who controlled and nonchalantly lifted his shot into the net from ten yards. It was a picture-book goal from the Blaugrana, and one that edged them closer to more silverware.

To Atlante’s credit, however, they continued to attempt to fashion a route back into the match, and Valdes had to look sprightly to parry a Rafael Marquez Lugo effort as he bore down on goal.

But that was the last attack from plucky Atlante as Barcelona played out the final ten minutes as only they can, maintaining possession and although both Pedro and substitute Bojan should have extended the lead it mattered little - the European giants had successfully negotiated a tricky tie to qualify for the World Club Championship final.

Paul Macdonald,

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