Crisis? What crisis?
All we have heard for the last three weeks is that Barcelona are a team in crisis. Well whatever crisis is over as Barcelona became the first team to advance in the Champions League after losing the first leg 2-0.
And it was Lionel Messi, who else, that led Barca to victory. Needing an early goal, Messi quieted Barcelona nerves with his 52nd goal of the season after just five minutes. Xavi’s intricate pass found Messi whose unstoppable curling effort into the top corner gave Abbiati no chance. It was Messi’s 52nd goal of the season
Barca were flying after the goal, pressing high up the pitch and almost went two up after 13 minutes. Abbiati was forced into making a fantastic save to tip Iniesta’s effort on to the bar before Messi somehow shot wide following up. The keeper then had to be in top form four minutes later to acrobatically tip Xavi’s stinging effort around the post.
Then the game and tie turned in 60 seconds near the end of the first half. A long Milan clearance was misjudged by Javier Mascherano and Milan striker M’baye Niang ran free from almost the half-way line before hitting the post with Victor Valdes beaten. If Niang had scored then, Barcelona would have needed at least three more goals at that point to advance because of the away goals rule.
But he didn’t and Barcelona went down the pitch and Iniesta played the ball into Messi, who fired past a helpless Abbiati from just outside the box.
At that point it was game over. Even the Milan players knew that they could not shut out Barcelona for the next 75 minutes (2nd half + extra time) and it was just a question of when Barcelona would add a third, not when.
And it came in the 55th minute when Xavi’s pin-point pass eluded a sliding Cristian Zapata to find David Villa, whose left-footed finish gave the Milan stopper no chance.
To give Milan credit, they changed their tactics at this point and for the first time threatened a porous Barcelona defence, making for a nervy last 15 minutes for the Barcelona fans as a Milan goal would have seen them progress to the quarter-finals.
But as Milan threw men forward they left themselves open to the counter-attack and Barcelona punished them when Alba somehow gathered the strength to burst down the left to fire past Abbiati in what was another memorable Barça performance at the Camp Nou.