Barcelona advances to 1st Champions League final since 2011
MUNICH (AP) — After the final whistle, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique embraced: the coach who led Barcelona to 14 titles from 2008-12 and the successor who hopes to win his first three in the next month.
Led by one of the most successful attacks in the history of European soccer, Barcelona dispensed with Bayern Munich and Guardiola to reach the Champions League final for the first time 2011.
Neymar scored twice in the first half, and Barcelona cruised to a 3-2 loss on Tuesday night for a 5-3 aggregate victory in their semifinal matchup.
“I am very proud of my players,” Guardiola said. “And also big compliments to Barcelona, I hope they win the fifth title.”
Seeking its fifth European title, Barcelona will play defending champion Real Madrid or Juventus at Berlin on June 6. Host Real tries to overturn a 2-1 deficit in Wednesday’s semifinal.
“We forced them to take risks and we know what qualities our players have. I am very satisfied with our performance,” Enrique said.
Trying to win its fourth European title in 10 seasons with Lionel Messi, Barcelona will be in what could be the second straight all-La Liga final after Real’s win over crosstown rival Atletico last year. Led by a combined 114 goals from Messi (53), Luis Suarez and Neymar (24), the Blaugrana are in the European final for the eighth time.
“We don’t need to talk about the trio’s qualities. They understand each other very well,” Enrique said. “It is difficult to control them. They used their chances.”
In its first season under Enrique, Barcelona also leads the Spanish league and is in the Copa del Rey final.
Trailing after a 3-0 loss at Barcelona last week, Bayern went ahead when Medhi Benatia scored on a header off a corner kick in the seventh minute.
Neymar scored eight minutes later, and the away goal meant Bayern needed a four-goal victory to advance, and Neymar’s second goal, his 37th this season, put Barcelona ahead 2-1 in the 29th. Bayern got goals from Robert Lewandowski in the 59th and Thomas Mueller in the 74th.
Bayern, the 2013 champion under coach Jupp Heynckes, was knocked out for the second straight season in the semifinals under Guardiola, who has said he will stay for the final season of his contract and not leave to manage Manchester City.
Bayern, a five-time European champion which has clinched its third straight Bundesliga title, was hampered by injuries to wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
“We did everything we could. It’s a pity,” Guardiola said. “I hope we can play better next season.”
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