|Ballon d’Or winner Messi celebrates his goal two minutes after coming on as a sub [AFP]|
European champions Barcelona booked their ticket to the Club World Cup final with a 3-1 victory over Mexico’s Atlante in Abu Dhabi.
Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, who scored within two minutes of coming on as a substitute, helped propel Barca into the final against Estudiantes.
Atlante took advantage of the European champions sluggish start to take the lead in the fifth minute through forward Guillermo Rojas, but midfielder Sergio Busquets equalised after 35.
Fans chanted Messi’s name when the Argentina forward replaced Toure. And he scored in front of the near-capacity 40,952 crowd at the Zayed Sports City in the 53rd minute and put the European champions ahead almost immediately.
Barcelona increased their lead when a fine run down the left and into the box by Andres Iniesta ended with Pedro scoring from close in.
Barca will meet Argentina’s Estudiantes, the South American champions, in the final on Saturday as they challenge for an unprecedented sixth trophy in a calendar year.
Barcelona have already won the Champions League, Spanish league, Copa del Rey, Spanish Supercup and European Supercup trophies in 2009.
Concacaf champions Atlante went ahead after five minutes when their Argentine keeper Federico Vilar punted a free kick deep into the Barcelona half, defender Rafael Marquez missed the ball and Rojas darted through, lobbing keeper Victor Valdes and turning it into the net.
Vilar dived to his right to save a header by Busquets from a corner from the right taken by Xavi in the seventh minute.
The Mexican side could have had a second three minutes later when right back Navarro sprung the offside trap to run through on goal, but instead of shooting he elected to pass, failing to find his two team mates in the middle.
Busquets equalised 10 minutes before half-time with a low right-footed, first-time shot from the left after Yaya Toure had flicked on with his head a corner from the right by Xavi.
|Xavi tussles with Mexico’s Atlante players who will have to settle for a third place battle [AFP]|
Messi, having been a doubt for the match with a right ankle injury, came on for midfielder Toure and within two minutes raced on to a fine through pass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to round Vilar and score.
Pedro added the third in the 67th minute when he hit the ball past Vilar after Iniesta had won the ball on the left and made a jinking run into the box.
“We want to win everything,” Pedro said.
“Hopefully we’ll do it in the final.”
The 22-year-old forward now has a remarkable record of having scored in all six competitions Barca have taken part in this year.
Atlante striker Rafael Marquez broke away on the right with a good chance to reduce the deficit but his shot was saved one-handed by the advancing Valdes.
Substitute Bojan Krkic fluffed an excellent chance right in front of goal to increase Barca’s lead and they could have scored again from several late moves with Messi causing havoc in the Atlante defence.
The most spectacular was Ibrahimovic’s effort from 35 metres out on the left that was pushed away for a corner by Vilar’s diving save.
Atlante will play Asian champions Pohang Steelers in the third-place playoff on Saturday.