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By ESPN Staff

Stark and Messi dominate Spanish press

The brilliance of Lionel Messi and the controversy caused by Pepe's sending off and Jose Mourinho's subsequent comments dominated the front pages of the Spanish sporting press on Thursday following the ill-tempered Champions League semi-final first leg between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

• Adams: Barca's shame hidden
• Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona
• Mourinho: Victory is impossible
• Pep Guardiola avoids war of words

Messi scored twice late on to earn Barca a 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu that makes them overwhelming favourites to progress through to next month's final at Wembley.

Messi's performance, with his second goal a superb individual effort, was just one of the talking points following the clash, though, with Pepe's dismissal, the performance of referee Wolfgang Stark and Madrid coach Mourinho's post-match rant all helping to fill pages of media reaction.

The Catalan-based press focused their attention on Barca's success, and in particular on Messi, whose brace took his tally this season to a remarkable 52 goals in all competitions for Pep Guardiola's men.

Both El Mundo Deportivo and Sport described Messi as 'el puto amo' on their front page, which directly translates 'the f*****g man' and is a reference to Guardiola's remarks about Mourinho prior to Wednesday night's Clasico.

El Mundo Deportivo's main headline read "ecstasy", while adding: "Barca destroy Madrid with football and two great goals from Leo in the Bernabeu."

Sport highlighted the fact that Barca are now within touching distance of the final, saying on their front page: "From Madrid to Wembley. Two great goals from Leo leave Barca at the gates of the final. The superstar took control of the team following the sending-off of Pepe."

Sport also mentioned Mourinho, who was sent to the stands for his reaction to Pepe's sending off and then vented his fury during the post-match press conference in which he implied the Catalan giants receive favourable treatment from referees.

"Mourinho, sent off, didn't know how to lose. He again made himself a victim of the referees, but his own player Cristiano criticised his defensive style."

The two Madrid-based dailies Marca and AS had almost identical front pages, using the same photograph of Stark brandishing a red card at Pepe following his challenge on Barca defender Dani Alves and both using the headline "Why?".

That was in reference to Mourinho's post-match outburst when he said: "I'd rather say no more because if I tell him [the referee] and UEFA what I really think my career would end here and now. Since I cannot say it, I'll ask a question: Why?"

Mourinho then went on to list a number of questions - which AS put on their front page - which insinuated Barca were receiving preferential treatment from officials.

Marca, Spain's biggest-selling paper, claimed on their front page the red card for Pepe was "excessive" and also pointed out the fact it was the fourth time this season Madrid have been left with ten men against Barca.

Inside the paper, Marca added: "Messi dazzles a mediocre Madrid. Two goals from the Argentina star and a sensational performance from Xavi led the game. The sending off of Pepe marked the changing of the encounter.

"Disappointing plan of Mourinho in front of his public. Stark and Messi leave Madrid having to make a miracle."

El Mundo newspaper also felt Pepe's dismissal was "unfair", adding on their front page: "The referee breaks Madrid and a brilliant Messi polishes them off."

El Pais' report on the match, like Marca, highlighted Madrid's defensive approach to the game, saying: "The Azulgrana, with Messi at the forefront, strike dead a Madrid who didn't do much before or after the sending-off of Pepe."


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