Wednesday, 27. April 2011 - 22:44 Uhr

Messi rules at the Bernabéu (0-2)

Barça gave a footballing lesson at the Bernabeu, climaxing in two Leo Messi goals -one of which will surely go down as a classic- that put them in the driving seat for a place in the Wembley final ahead of next week’s second leg at the Nou Camp.

A special occasion like tonight’s, demanded high levels of concentration and bravery and Barça proved to have enough of both. Going into the semi –final without Iniesta, Abidal, Adriano and Bojan, the team lined up with Puyol at left back and Keita playing just in front of him, and stayed true to their style of play, dominating possession, building from the back and showing complete control: this was Guardiola’s commitment and it worked.

74% of the possession and two second half goals from Leo Messi, meant Barça took a giant step towards making next month’s Wembley final. With both Pepe and Pinto seeing red and Ramos a yellow that will mean he misses the next game, the Nou Camp is set to be the scene for the deciding game next week.

82% possession

From the start, this game looked like the first meeting between the two at the Bernabeu, rather than the Cup Final, with Barça composed and in charge - claiming an astonishing 82% of possession in the first quarter of an hour, whilst Madrid failed to get their pressing in midfield underway. Mourinho was clearly happy to give up the ball and hope to hit Barça on the counter.

Pinto red card

Most of the first half was a midfield tussle with only a piece of individual skill from Villa and two efforts from Messi and Xavi creating danger in Casillas’s area. Madrid were defending in numbers and only made hesitant attacks through a series of free kicks from the left, which failed to seriously trouble Valdés, who did however, make a great double stop from Ronaldo and Ozil, in a clear offside position, just before the break. It had been a niggly first half and after a scuffle broke out in the tunnel at half time, Pinto was shown a straight red.

Pepe gets his red

Mourinho fiddled with his tactics after the break, bringing on Adebayor for Ozil to try and hold the ball up in Barça’s half, but the visitors found ever more space in midfield and began to put together their typical passing game. Then on the hour mark, Pepe lunged into Alves and was shown a straight red, as was his manager, who complained in a typical fashion to the officials at his player’s sending off. With half an hour still to go, Madrid’s resistance seemed inevitably about to crack.

Afellay proves decisive

Barça nearly opened the scoring on 67 minutes, when Villa’s shot from the left was parried out by Casillas only as far as Pedro, whose header went agonisingly close. For his troubles, Pedro suffered a nasty knock as Marcelo stamped his leg and Afellay came on to replace him. The young Dutch winger made an almost immediate impact as he out sprinted Marcello in the box and centred at the near post for Messi to turn home and complete Barça’s first objective of an away goal.

Messi magic

Barça were now even more on top and they were looking for a second. It was Leo Messi - who else? - who rounded off the game with a brilliant piece of individual skill, slaloming through the Madrid defence and cleverly shooting to Casillas’s right to double the score and his own personal tally for the evening -a historic, unforgettable and brilliant end to a great night for Barça in Madrid.

Edited By Matthew Havor

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Wednesday, 27. April 2011 - 22:33 Uhr

Pep Guardiola Answers Jose Mourinho

Pep Guardiola gave Jose Mourinho’s comments about him short shrift at tonight’s pre- match press conference and also insisted that Barça would go into the game at the Bernabeu: “proud to defend style of play”.

Guardiola replied to the Madrid boss’s earlier comments by declaring:“since he has chosen to to talk about me, I’ll do the same - tomorrow we’ll face each other on the pitch at 20.45. He’s won his games off the pitch and I’ll give him his personal Champions for that - just take it home and enjoy it. We can come up with plenty of examples too, but there’s no end to it, so tomorrow we are simply going to go out onto the pitch and play. I don’t want to compete with him in a press room –he’s the boss at that – a magician and I don’t want to play at making insinuations about him all the time”.

“We can’t fight his media supporters ”

Guardiola’s comments came in reply to Mourinho’s complaints about the Barça manager’s observations after the Spanish Cup final: “I’m not going to justify my comments –I simply congratulated Madrid after the final. If you think that his allegation that I always complain about the refs is true after you’ve all heard me over the last 3 years, well there’s nothing I can do. Off the pitch, against his media supporters, there’s nothing we can do to fight that”.

Guardiola’s disgust was heightened by the fact that the two worked together for four years when the Portuguese man was at Barcelona. The boss also referred to Sergio Ramos’s comments: “I saw them. It’s something his club told him to say. I’ve seen it before with Mourinho, he did it at Chelsea and now he’s doing it here”.

Confidence in the squad

Turning to the game itself, Guardiola confirmed the injury to Andres Iniesta and explained: “we hope to have him back for the second leg. It may change the way we go into the game – we’ll have to see. Maybe Madrid will finish with 10 men, but we will start with 11. I’m confident about the players we have. We are coming here proud to defend our style of play, with 12 home grown players and set to face a team in the semi finals who have 9 European Cups and seven great forwards”.

Tough tie ahead

Guardiola called the fourth successive semi final appearance of the Club: “a gift” and went on to forecast: “a very tough tie for both teams. It’ll be like the Inter game last year, the recent league game and the Cup Final. I’ve come here plenty of times and if you come to defend, they’ll destroy you. You can only dominate them by playing”. Finally, Guardiola commented: “I’ve never seen such an aggressive Madrid team”, as well as revealing: “the grass on the pitch is still long, but that’s what there is and we will go out and play on it”.


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Wednesday, 27. April 2011 - 22:02 Uhr

La Times Review: Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Nicki...

The rapper born William Roberts goes by the pseudonym Rick Ross, and in lyrics he claims he’s MC Hammer and drug kingpins Big Meech and Larry Hoover. Dwayne Carter is known to most civilians as Lil Wayne but claims the names Lil Tunechi, Weezy and the more formal Weezy F. Baby. Queens-bred Onika Maraj is Nicki Minaj. Her alter-egos include Roman Zolanski and Nicki Teresa. Once on "Lopez Tonight," she called herself “Rosa” (with an extended roll of the "R.")

Together at the Staples Center on Friday night, the three behind the I Am Still Music tour asserted their  place at the forefront of the cartoon-rap renaissance, a progression that has occurred as hip hop’s commercial wing has increasingly divorced itself from its gritty '90s gangsta iteration. But few represent the shift more than Ross, who when confronted by his past as a corrections officer that he’d tried to keep hidden, transcended the nearly career-ending revelation by writing lyrics so absurdly fantastical they made Afrika Bambaataa’s spaced-out track “Planet Rock” seem grounded.

Indeed, you’d have to go back to the early '80s, to days of rappers in Indian headdress and bedazzled leather suits, to find anything as theatrical as Minaj, the 25-year old superstar signed to Wayne’s Young Money imprint. Emerging midway through the four-hour concert with a retinue of backup dancers, an ersatz Druid and “Gladiator” clips, Minaj’s brightly colored costume and cotton-candy-pink wig resembled a raver attempting to re-create “Babes in Toyland.”

But like the men who preceded her, Minaj proved that authenticity was irrelevant when you can rap so well. Wowing a crowd with a large contingent of counterfeit Kardashians and designer thugs in black plastic glasses, Minaj deployed tonalities and voices usually only heard in a Pixar film: a Dungeons & Dragons growl, a coquettish coo, an “Oliver Twist”-type lilt.

Playing material largely taken from her platinum debut, “Pink Friday,” Minaj stole the show, ushering in a level of theatrics and color worthy of Cirque du Soleil. She gave an audience member a lap dance. She passed out T-shirts. Her cadences oscillated like a kite in an electrical storm. Alternately performing alongside and apart from her mentor, Lil Wayne, Minaj created her own archetype: part vamp, part Barbie doll and part character from a Prince song.

Despite the crowd’s adulation for both Ross and Minaj, though, most of the love went to Wayne, who was making his first major Los Angeles appearance since being released from jail last November. Now sober, Wayne displayed admirable focus and few of the tics that plagued his pre-prison performances. There was no slurring or any ill-advised guitar solos. Instead, he impishly leaped around the stage and climbed scaffolding, backed by kaleidoscopic visuals and a full band, while unfurling tongue-twisting rhyme patterns that resembled those of a young Busta Rhymes.

As Wayne ran through mixtape tracks and those from his Carter trilogy, the near-capacity crowd filmed virtually every move on their phones. And when he brought out L.A. rapper Game to perform “My Life,” the applause levels reached NBA Championship levels. When Wayne did “All I Do Is Win,” the room convulsed like celebratory confetti was raining down.

There were missteps: an attempt to promote Young Money hopeful Lil Twist that fell flat; a vocalist singing a solo quasi-gospel number, which seemed designed as an excuse for a bathroom break. But for the most part, Wayne and company lived up to the tour’s title. They are still music. Though the obvious intent of the rapper also known as Weezy F. Baby was to reclaim the rap throne, Friday night's concert delivered something even more important: sheer entertainment.

Edited By Matthew Havor