• Wednesday Dec 16, 2009

    Atlante fails to hold early lead, overwhelmed by Barcelona 3-1

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Atlante failed to hold an early lead and was overwhelmed by Barcelona 3-1 Wednesday in the semifinals of the Club World Cup.

    Lionel Messi scored in the 54th, a minute after entering the match, to give Barca the lead and send it to Saturday's final against Estudiantes of Argentina. Atlante will play the Pohang Steelers o Korea Republic earlier in the day in the third-place match.

    Guillermo Rojas capitalized on a defensive lapse to put Atlante ahead in the fifth minute, but Barcelona quickly gained control of the match and dominated to the end.

    Sergio Busquets equalized in the 35th minute, and goals by Messi and Pedro in the 67th assured the victory as the CONCACAF champion struggled to create chances.

    Barcelona started with eight of the 11 players that began Saturday's 2-0 victory over Xerez in its most recent Spanish league contest. But Atlante exploited the early nonchalance when goalkeeper Federico Vilar launched a free kick from deep in his own half and Rojas outraced Xavi to a ball that bounced once.

    With the Barcelona defense chasing, Rojas got around keeper Victor Valdes at the right post and touched it past with the outside of his left foot.

    The goal motivated Barcelona, which immediately began to control the possession and pin Atlante in its own half. Keeping eight players in its own defensive third, Atlante largely limited the European champ to shots from distance.

    At times the defense was desperate, with Vilar coming off his touchline to the far touchline to challenge for the ball in the 24th minute.

    Barcelona equalized when Xavi's corner kick was redirected by Yaya Toure's head to Busquets, who from the back top corner of the six-yard box one-touched the ball under Vilar.

    Barca, which is unbeaten in 15 games in the Spanish league this season, continued to dominate at the start of the second half, but took the lead immediately after manager Pep Guardiola inserted Messi for Toure and Gerard Pique for Mexican national team defender Rafael Marquez.

    Andres Inestia began Messi's scoring effort with a wide ball to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who moved central before feeding the diagonally darting Argentine. Messi one-touched past Jose "Chepe" Guerrero before beating Vilar from 10 meters with a left-footed shot.

    Inestia set up Pedro for his goal 13 minutes later, sending a short ball between the Atlante defense for an unmarked opportunity.

    Rafael Marquez Lugo had a rare opportunity to pull Atlante within a goal in the 75th, running in unmarked against Valdes, but his shot from the right side was knocked away by the Barca keeper.

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