Barcelona became the first team to overturn a two goal first leg deficit to progress 4-2 on Aggregate against AC Milan. The Catalan giant’s had just too much quality for a Milan side that couldn’t repeat their heroics from the first leg. Two sublime first half goals from Lionel Messi, plus second half strikes from Villa and Alba were enough to see Barca through in a match they dominated.
Coming into the game from a poor run of form, by their standards, Barca were under a lot of pressure to perform. AC Milan, needed two things to happen for them to progress to the next round. They needed to defend as well as they did two weeks ago, and they needed Barca to play as poorly as they did. It took 5 minutes for both of these thing to go wrong.
A typical Barca move around the Milan area, culminated in a slick one two between Xavi and Messi. With the latter, surrounded by Milan players on the edge of the box, finding space to deftly curl the ball into the top corner. It was the start they desperately needed, and the one Milan feared. Milan looked as though they could crumble soon after, with Iniesta forcing Abbiati to save onto the bar, and Messi again going close soon after. The Milan full back Abate could have considered himself lucky when he bundled over Pedro in the box. The ref waved play on, but could easily have given a penalty and a red card.
Milan’s plan it seemed was to try and get El shaarawy into the game, but the forward at time, lacked pace and composure to trouble the Barca defence. Their other tactic it seemed was to lump the ball toward the 18 burly striker Niang to feed of off; but the young forward struggled at times to do this, even against the diminutive Mascherano. MIlan were certainly missing a few key players, namely the forward Pazzini, who caused Barca so many problems in the first game.
However, the tactic for Niang did prove successful for once, as a long ball forward was missed by Mascherano, putting the French striker clean through. Unfortunately for the away side, the pressure seemed to get the best of him, and he ended up striking the post. It proved to be an incredibly costly mistake, one that could haunt him for some time. Barca ran straight up the field, and with Ambrosini failing to control and interception, Iniesta found Messi on the edge of the box. With one touch he gave himself a yard against Mexes, and whipped the ball through his legs and into the corner of Abbiati’s net to put the sides level on aggregate. The officials and perhaps Milan seemed to be so concerned by Messi’s skill that they failed to realise the striker was offside. A very cruel way for Milan to finished the second half, but it was the scoreline the teams’ performances merited.
In the second half we saw a lot more intent from Milan. It seemed their coach Massimiliano Allegri knew they;d have no chance winning the tie, by just trying to contain Barca, they had to score. Suddenly there was more accuracy in the midfield passing, more urgency whilst trying to win the ball back, and their full backs were joining in the attack. This worked for a while, but the problem Milan had, was that one of their fullbacks, Abate was much faster and more composed then their other, Constant.
In fact it was Constant’s error that led to Barca’s third goal. A cross came in that wasn’t dealt with, Xavi played a through ball toward Villa, that Constant gambled on and missed. Villa duly punished the Italians by stroking the ball into the corner to put Barca in front on aggregate for the first time.
After this Milan seemed to panic, and forget what they were obviously sent out in the second half to do. They resorted to the sloppy way they were playing in the first half, with Barca dominating possession around their box, without creating too many opurtunities, but more importantly, not allowing Milan to attack. After a flurry of substitutions with saw the introduction of former Man City flop Robinho, as well as surprise Barca omission Puyol, Milan began to threaten again. Former Barca player Bojan’s low crossed very nearly found its way to Robinho, but Alba got back in time to clear his lines, this was in fact to be Milan’s last decent chance. As they entered the last few minutes, knowing that one goal would still see them through, they started to play their best football of the night. Barca, knowing the job was far from done, were starting to look nearvous, a rare sight for most football fans. Milan peppered the box with crosses, but alas the chances just wouldn’t fall to them.
A free kick in the middle of the park in injury time, resulted in a last chance to put the ball in the box for Milan. For some reason Robinho decided to play it short, subsequently losing it. Barca quickly counter attacked, Substitute Sanchez played a simple cross to on rushing wing back Alba, who put the ball through Abbiati’s legs to complete the amazing, but hardly surprising comeback. In finished off what must have been a miserable night for Milan, after the brilliant performance of a fortnight before, they couldn’t produce the goods a second time. This wasn’t helped by Barcelona playing the football we’d come to expect from them over the years. Still, with their poor performance in the first leg, you’d have to say that Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were probably bookies favourites at the stage. Needless to say, Barcelona will be looking to avoid either of them as they head into the quarter final.