Barcelona Overcome Milan in Pulsating BattleNovember 24, 2011
FC Barcelona qualified top of Group H on Wednesday night, beating Milan 3-2 in an entertaining encounter at the San Siro. There was a thrilling mix of skill and controversy; Barça’s goals game through a van Bommel own goal, Messi and Xavi after a fine team move. Milan equalized twice, with Ibrahimovic and Boateng grabbing two well-worked goals.
Although Milan and Barcelona had already achieved qualification for the second round, first place, and with it the prospect of an easier knockout opponent, was still up for grabs. Both clubs fielded competitive teams, with a host of stars lining up at kick-off. Messi, Xavi, Villa, Cesc and Puyol were present for Barça, while Swedish striker Ibrahimovic started for Milan against his former club.
After an even opening few minutes, Barcelona took the lead through an own goal by Dutch veteran Mark van Bommel; Keita got free down the left side of the area and produced a low cross that wrong-footed a number of Milan players, including their midfielder who turned it into his net under pressure from Xavi.
Barcelona were nearly two-up seconds later, when Thiago showed quick feet and quick thinking to flick the ball past the backline for Cesc Fábregas, whose volley was straight at Abbiati.
After this let off Milan started to find their feet. First Robinho somehow contrived to turn a Boateng cross over the bar, and then Seedorf trapped a long pass on the left angle of the area. He then pushed the ball through for Ibrahimovic who scored with a low first-time shot.
But the momentum was soon back with the away team. Messi was denied at close range, and some flowing Barcelona moves were ended only by last-ditch tackles. Then, on the half-hour mark, Alberto Aquilani was adjudged to have hauled down Lionel Messi – much to the home team’s dismay. After lengthy protestations by Milan, the Argentine forward stepped up to take his kick. His first effort was chalked off thanks to its stuttering run-up, but the second was legitimate, and was tucked into the bottom right corner.
In the final minutes of the half Abbiati made important saves from both Messi and Villa to preserve a score-line that perhaps flattered the hosts.
The second period was an altogether more subdued affair, but was lit up by moments of sublime skill. On an individual level, Boateng’s 53rd minute equalizer was something to behold; Mascherano half-cleared a deep cross for Ibra, and the ball fell to AC Milan’s German talent – he trapped the ball first time and flicked the ball past Abidal with his heel before slamming home at Valdes’ near post.
In no mood to be outdone, Barcelona reclaimed the lead on the hour-mark through a fabulous team goal. At the end of it Messi produced a forensic through-pass, evading four Milan defenders, which finished with expert precision by Xavi. Later, Abbiati made two point-blank saves to keep substitiute Alexis at bay, but Barcelona were more than comfortable.
0-1 Van Bommel (min 13)
1-1 Ibrahimovic (min 19)
1-2 Messi (min 30)
2-2 Boateng (min 55)
2-3 Xavi (min 64)