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Barca win plaudits after reaching final

Even Real Madrid supporters give credit to Barcelona for reaching the Champions League final for the first time in 12 years.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 15:51 IST

Even Real Madrid supporters give credit to Barcelona for reaching the Champions League final for the first time in 12 years.

"They Deserve It," read the banner headline on Thursday in Spain's leading sports daily, Marca, traditionally a backer of Barcelona's domestic rival.

Barcelona advanced to the May 17 final in Paris against Arsenal by drawing 0-0 with AC Milan on Wednesday night, going through 1-0 on aggregate. Milan's Andriy Schevchenko had a goal disallowed late in the second half.

"Yes, Yes, Yes, They're going to Paris," said sports daily As, adding, "Barcelona reach another final with the help of the referee."

Barcelona daily La Vanguardia summed it up: "How Beautiful It Is To Suffer." Leading news daily El Pais said, "A serious and determined Barcelona hold back a mighty Milan."

In a frantic-paced game before 95,000 fans, Deco and Andres Iniesta smothered Milan in midfield and created many chances. But Milan goalkeeper Dida was in excellent form and stopped successive attempts by Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o.

Six-time champions Milan picked up the pressure in the second half and pushed Barcelona until the end.

"It was a game of no stopping, a true spectacle, a carnival of passions," wrote La Vanguardia. "You could not take your eyes off the game for fear of missing the big one."

That moment almost came in the 69th minute when Schevchenko soared to head the ball past Barcelona 'keeper Victor Valdes.

The goal was disallowed for an alleged foul by the Ukrainian on defender Carles Puyol. Surprisingly, Schevchenko hardly protested.

"I don't know what the referee saw. Schevchenko jumped perfectly and didn't touch Puyol," said Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti. But he acknowledged that "Barcelona showed it is a great team in every aspect. It deserves to reach the final."

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliano was more upset. "It pains us to be out of the final because of a referee's error," he said.

Milan were aiming for their third final in four years. They lost last year to Liverpool on penalties.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard wouldn't be drawn to comment on whether he thought Schevchenko's goal was legitimate or not.

"I didn't think anything about it other than that it was disallowed," said the Dutchman, who won the Champions League in 1995 with Ajax and European Cups in 1989-90 with Milan.

"We did the job we had to do and I'm very happy to be in the final," said Rijkaard.

Barcelona reached the European final for the fifth time, and first since 1994 when they lost 4-0 to AC Milan.

The Spanish side has won the title once, beating Sampdoria 1-0 in 1992. Arsenal will be playing in their first European Cup final.