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Fighting Málaga bring out the very best in Barcelona

Goals from Pedro, Piqué, Iniesta and Messi took the Catalans through to the semi-final, where their eternal rivals, Real Madrid, await.

The Rosaleda was a Rubicon for Barcelona, and Jordi Roura's team crossed it in style, winning 2-4 against a fine team who fought throughout and brought out the very best in the Catalans. And when Barcelona play well, they play wide-screen cinematic football. Indeed, if they hadn't played as well as they did they wouldn't have won this tie and they wouldn't have ended the mini-run of two games without a win. The Barça machinery seems well oiled again, and ready to face Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

But before speculating on the games to come, homage should be paid to tonight's match. A match that flew by. End to end, frenetic stuff with chances in both goalmouths. Fought with equal hardness and finesse. A superb Málaga earned their glory, but in the end crumpled before a Barça in which Messi, Iniesta, Cesc and Xavi had to show the very best of what they are capable to win out in a thrilling, vibrant game. It was a monument to football, a game to reconcile many of those who are disillusioned with the sport.

On a poor pitch Barcelona and Málaga slugged it out, hurling punches at each other until Málaga collapsed to the canvas. But before they fell they had chances to land a knock-out blow on the favourites, who knew how to ride the blows of a rival who in the end went to the showers having conceded four, but without a criticism to level at their performance.

Málaga were unable to play with everything they have, and the doubt remains as to whether they would have gone through had Pellegrini been able to play Isco or Monreal and hadn't rested Caballero or Toulalan. It's a fair argument, but no-one can deny their commitment and courage as they levelled the game twice. Not every team in the world can say this. That Barcelona know how to trample over the opposition when they weaken is well known. But Málaga fell with their heads held high.

Roura was aware that there was a line in Málaga that needed to be crossed, and he brought out the best of his cavalry for the task. He put faith in Alves and Mascherano, who have been tame recently. Both rose to the challenge, especially the Brazilian, who played his best game of the season. Simply put, he was sublime.

Barça went ahead with a goal from Pedro in eight minutes from an Alves cross, with the Brazilian possibly a shade off-side. It was a goal that would have sunk many a team, but not Málaga, who drew level in no time through a delight from Joaquín (with a possible hand ball in the build up). From there the first half went by in a flash, like a storm between the goals.

In the second half the studied anarchy of Piqué gave the visitors the lead again (1-2) with a goal that any centre forward would be proud of. Santa Cruz, offended, replied in kind with a blow that set up extra-time at two apiece. But Barcelona's drive took them through. A stunning piece of play from Cesc put Iniesta in and Messi headed home from an Alves cross to finish Málaga off. But the home side had brought out the best of the visitors; an honourable effort.

Estadísticas AS.com