Barcelona became the first side to overturn a 0-2 deficit from the first leg of a knock out stages of a Champions League tie since the tournament was rebranded in 1992, demolishing AC Milan 4-0 at Camp Nou to emphatically book their sixth quarter-final appearance in six years.
Once Lionel Messi had opened the scoring inside 5 minutes you just had a feeling that Barcelona were going to progress into the quarter-finals.
Tito Vilanova’s side under the management of his assistant Jordi Roura as the Barcelona manager is having treatment on his throat cancer. Roura was scouting Barcelona’s opposition last season. Last night he was turning over a 0-2 deficit in the last 16 of the Champions League. Coaching the first team to do so in Champions League history.
There was little more than 60 seconds between M’Baye Niang striking the post for AC Milan and Lionel Messi going up the other end and scoring Barcelona’s second goal, from 20 yards. Massimo Ambrosini was caught in possession midway inside his own half by Andrés Iniesta who set up Messi for his second goal of the game.
AC Milan struggled to get out of their own half and even their own third for long periods of the game. The possession stats read 67% in favour of Barcelona, and was even higher prior to the final 20 minutes when the Italian side finally had a go. The Spanish runaway league leaders had been quick to win back possession, pressing high from the first minute.
Milan, particularly at the back seemed to panic in possession. Unable to pass their way out from the back on numerous occasions resulted in a number of punts up field and conceding possession inside their own half.
The tie was all square at half-time, 2-2 on aggregate. A Milan goal would have swung things heavily in their favour, but Barcelona were always going to score the third. And it came only 10 minutes into the second half when Xavi’s exquisite pass made Kevin Constant look foolish in trying to intercept, giving David Villa time and space to fire hire Barca’s third. 1 chance, 1 shot, 1 goal for the striker who’s been linked once again with a move away from the club.
With Villa up front, Messi was playing between the lines and it caused Milan a lot of problems in the first half, with his goals coming a couple of yards either side of the 18 yard box. The central midfield quartet of Massimo Ambrosini, Mathieu Flamini, Riccardo Montolivo and Kevin Prince Boateng in midfield had no answer to the Barcelona Tiki-taka style of football.
Jordi Alba sealed an empathic result late on on the counter attack with a cheeky chip over Christian Abbiati. Victor Valdes at the other end was rarely called into action. Abbiati himself making a fantastic save from Iniesta’s drive after just 13 minutes, tipping the ball onto the crossbar.
AC Milan looked livelier in the final 20 minutes or so following the introduction of Robinho and Sulley Muntari on the hour. They had the ball inside the Barcelona penalty area on a couple of occasions, a couple of times resulting in a foul against the Italian side. The closest they came was Jordi Alba blocking an effort from Robinho from close range on 81 minutes.
Barcelona had entered this game losing three of their previous five games and some of the poorer British media writing them off. A surprise 2-0 defeat in AC Milan and two defeats by Real Madrid. Yes, they weren’t convincing against Deportivo La Coruna at the weekend but perhaps they had been saving their energy for this one.
Tuesday night saw Barcelona near their best. And playing like this they look unstoppable. Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain have looked good this season, but Real Madrid and Bayern Munich really are the only sides capable of beating the Catalans and even then they’re going to need to need a dip in performance from this Barcelona side to have a chance.
Barcelona have reached at least the semi-finals of this competition for each of the past five seasons, winning it on two occasions. Bayern Munich in 2007 were the last team to eliminate the Spanish side before the final four, that came in the round 16 on away goals when Frank Rijkaard was in charge and AC Milan would go on to beat Liverpool in the final.