Barcelona set up King's Cup semi-final with Real Madrid

Lionel Messi

Messi came close to doing it all alone in the 25th when he intercepted a pass and charged into the area, but Malaga goalie Carlos Kameni was up to the challenge and smothered his point-blank strike.

Even with the away-goal advantage, Malaga continued to push forward and Roque Santa Cruz stabbed a free kick wide in the 36th, moments before Messi played Andres Iniesta through, only to see his shot clip the crossbar.

Barcelona wove together some breathtaking combinations looking to hit back before the break, but Malaga's defense resisted until a well-deserved breather at the break.

"We saw a great show tonight at La Rosaleda, and that should make anyone who paid for their ticket happy,'' said Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini. "I have no reproaches for my players. We played a great game against a great rival and the best team moved on.''

Pique swung the tie back in Barcelona's favor in the 50th when he showed the touch of a striker by controlling Iniesta's lobbed pass with his chest before sweeping the ball in with his left foot. The Spain defender celebrated his goal by sucking his thumb for his baby boy born on Tuesday to pop singer Shakira.

Malaga couldn't keep up the same level of intensity from the first 45 minutes, and Barcelona slowly extended its control.

But just when Barcelona was playing its best, Malaga gathered itself to launch a counterattack that Joaquin capped by passing for Santa Cruz to fire in off the far post and make it 4-4 on aggregate in the 67th minute.

Barcelona, however, wasn't fazed and Iniesta struck the decisive goal with an elegant slalom to get by Malaga's first line of defense, before working a one-two with Fabregas that left him clear to slot under Kameni.

... contd.

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