Barcelona destroy AC Milan 4-0, march into Champions League quarterfinals
On a night that promised so much to so many and with folks all over the world tuning in with aspirations of catching a competitive match, Barcelona proved their superiority to one and all with an emphatic performance to dump AC Milan out of the Champions League and seal their place in the quarterfinals, all the while living up to the proverb that a wounded tiger is to be feared the most.
It took Barcelona all of five minutes to cut the aggregate deficit into half when Messi slotted home to send the home crowd into delirium and set the agenda for the rest of the game. A precise one-two with Xavi allowed Messi the time to curl the ball past Abbiati and put the home side in front. With that goal, Messi also demolished that one statistic that had been doing the rounds of the internet, the one which said he hadn’t scored in open play against the Italians. And that was to be the start of a miserable night for the visitors as wave after wave of Barcelona attacks pinned them back in to their own box and left them gasping for air. Minutes later, Barcelona had a penalty shout denied when Pedro was bundled over inside the box in the 12th minute.
In the very next minute, Abbiati pulled off a stunning save from an Iniesta half-volley just when it looked as if Milan’s lead was going up in smoke. There was no respite for the Italians, save for a corner and a couple of half-hearted forays into the opposition’s half. Abbiati was forced into launching aerial balls in the general direction of Niang, but those too were dealt with by Pique and Mascherano. Only once did the Barca centrebacks lose track of their man and the ball, when in the 38th minute Niang was through on goal with only Valdes to beat. And beaten Valdes was, but Niang’s shot crashed against the post, much to the dismay of Allegri and his men. The miss was to prove costly only two minutes later, when Ambrosini, in an attempt to win the ball and start an attack, was caught out by Iniesta, who drove straight at the defense and passed it to Messi on the edge of the box. A second later, Messi was wheeling away in celebration after firing in an unstoppable shot past Abbiati and restoring parity on aggregate. Half-time couldn’t come soon enough for Milan, although there was still time for yellow cards to be dished out to the bandaged Flamini and the rampant Pedro.
The pattern of the match didn’t change and Barcelona started the second half with the same belief they did the first, the belief that the first leg result was an aberration and that victory on the night belonged to them. And it took them 3 minutes from the restart to test Abbiati, who got down well and kept Messi’s shot out. Mexes was the next to go into the book in the 54th minute for tripping Messi who was relishing the space afforded to him by the constant movements of Villa and Pedro. The incessant pressing from Barcelona bore fruit yet again as Mascherano won the ball back when it seemed Milan were starting a counterattack. With players out of position in anticipation of the break, Milan were caught turning back towards goal. Not wasting any time, Xavi played a delightful ball to Villa on the edge of the box, and the Spaniard stepped inside and curled it with his left foot to put Barca ahead for the first time in the tie. The time was 55 minutes, the scoreline read 3-0 and Barca had wiped out Milan’s lead and put one more on the board, all within the hour.
Allegri responded with two substitutions, Robinho replacing Niang and Ambrosini making way for the goalscorer from the first leg, Sulley Muntari. The substitutions did not have any visible impact as Barcelona continued their passing carousel. It took Milan till the 68th minute to create something of note, as Abate’s run and cross from the right wing caused commotion inside the box till Pique cleared the ball to safety. Such was Barca’s dominance even in the second half that at one point the possession read 75-25 in Barca’s favour. Milan did show some urgency to get that all important away goal that would force Barca into scoring one more to win the tie on aggregate. But there was no way out and they were forced into cynical fouls outside the box, more out of frustration than malice.
In the 74th minute, Villa made way for Sanchez and Puyol came in for Mascherano in the 77th as Barcelona started the process of strengthening their backline. But it was Pique and Alba who saved Barcelona’s bacon with vital challenges as the match entered the last 10 minutes of regulation play. Bojan’s jinking run and cross found Robinho, but Alba’s brave and possibly reckless challenge cleared the danger. Milan started throwing more and more men forward at set-pieces in search of that elusive away goal, and in the 92nd minute they paid the ultimate price as from a Milan freekick, Barcelona won the ball back and countered through Sanchez who centered for the rampaging Alba to put the ball into the net and make the scoreline 4-0.
It was thus that history was created by Barcelona as they became the first side to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg and progress further in the Champions League.
Final Score: Barcelona 4 (Messi (2), Villa, Alba) – 0 AC Milan