UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan: Match Review

David Ramos

A recap of Barcelona's comfortable 3-1 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League

In a very exciting Champions League Barcelona outclassed AC Milan at the Camp Nou. All four goals were scored by Barcelona players, with Lionel Messi leading the charge with a brace and Sergio Busquets scoring in between Messi's markers. The consolidation goal for the visiting side was scored by Gerard Pique on a deflection.


FC Barcelona


AC Milan


Possession


63%


37%


Total Shots


19


4


Shots on Target


6


1


Pass Accuracy


92%


80%


Fouls


12


13


Offsides


5


1


Yellow Cards


1


3


Red Cards


0


0


With just two weeks since the last meeting between the two sides nobody expected major changes in the lineups, and in fact Barcelona came out with the same XI that started in Milan. The visitors, meanwhile, made only made two changes from the game at San Siro.

As expected, Barcelona dominated possession from the opening whistle. Milan looked comfortable behind the ball, but quickly holes started to appear in their defensive line. First Xavi threatened the goal from a free kick, then Messi went on a good run straight down the middle, but just ran out of room. Seconds later Andres Iniesta and Neymar played a brilliant one-two that sprung Neymar, but a poor first touch let down the Brazilian.

Barcelona looked up for the task ahead of them, but Neymar especially was looking impressive. His dribbling was exceptional and Ignazio Abate was having a difficult time keeping up with the Brazilian.

Milan struggled mightily with Barcelona's off the ball pressure early on as making more than three consecutive passes seemed impossible for them. They looked incredibly nervous on the pitch, as predicted by Eric Wynalda in our Q&A. An excellent example of that came just after the 20th minute when Alexis Sanchez very nearly intercepted Christian Abbiati's outlet pass and put it behind the goalkeeper. That came just after both Messi and Alexis couldn't tip in Adriano's cross from close range.

Around the half hour mark Milan started to get forward a little bit, but closer than to the edge of the box they weren't able to get. Just when it appeared the visitors were gaining some confidence Abate brought down Neymar in the penalty area and the referee, Milorad Mazic, pointed to the spot and showed the right back a yellow card. Messi stepped up to take the kick, powered it straight down the middle, and with Abbiati going to his right, Messi ended his three game scoring "drought".

Tempers flared a bit after Sulley Muntari caught Dani Alves with a two-footed studs first challenge that earned him a yellow card, but things soon got back to normal. Milan were even able to get a shot off, albeit off target. Barcelona, however, continued to look decisive in attack with Messi again threatening to score in the 38th minute.

The goal might not have come from that Messi chance, but it was a clear indication that a goal was in the air. And indeed it was as Busquets was able to double the Catalans' lead just two minutes later. Neymar won a free kick near the left sideline, Xavi delivered a perfect cross into the middle where Busquets (as well as Gerard Pique and Alexis) escaped the defense, and was able to head the ball into the back of the net. It was Busquets' first Champions League goal of the season, and first in the competition since 24 April 2012 against Chelsea.

It was a half of domination by Barcelona, but it wasn't going to end even remotely perfect as the Rossoneri were able to claw one back at the stroke of halftime. Kaka was given too much space by Alves and he made his way into the penalty area near the goal-line. Out of options, he tried to send the ball into the six-yard box, but it appeared that Victor Valdes will easily collect the ball. However, Pique decided to block the pass and the ball found its way between the post and Valdes' toes to halve Barcelona's lead.

Immediately after the goal the referee whistled for halftime, and Milan went into the second part with a chance to get something out of the game they were never really in to this point.

Barcelona didn't make any substitutions before the beginning of the second half - it's not like they needed to - but Massimiliano Allegri, decided a change was needed in his team's attacks so he brought on Mario Balotelli for Robinho. Balotelli quickly livened things up in attack, firing the first shot on goal by a Milan player, after a lovely fake on Adriano.

But Barcelona continued to dictate tempo and created chances with, what at least appeared like, ease. One of them even appeared to have ended in Messi goal, but it was ruled out for offside. Adriano fired a good shot from the edge that hit Messi along the way and in a high arc went into the net, but the Argentine was just leaning offside.

Balotelli, meanwhile, caused all kinds of problems to the Barcelona backline as both Adriano and Javier Mascherano struggled to contain the big forward. Barcelona on the other side had a few potentially very dangerous plays stopped for offside. Most of them were good calls, but the call on Neymar just before the hour mark, where the Brazilian would've went alone on goal, was for a lack of a better angle at least very debatable. Abbiati also had to make an excellent diving stop on Iniesta's perimeter shot.

In the 62nd minute, after losing the ball in attack, Alexis tried to rectify the situation with strong back-checking, but he got too much of Philippe Mexès and earned himself a yellow card. As a result of that card Alexis will now miss the next game of the Champions League, against Ajax later this month.

The game really opened up at this point with Pique and Mascherano resorting to sliding tackles to stop potent attacks and Barcelona coming oh so close to a couple one-on-one's with the Milan goalkeeper. For Milan all plays continued to go through Balotelli, who manhandled every defender that was marking him at the time. Most often he was marked by Adriano, and the poor Brazilian was simply no match for the sheer size of the Italian.

Half chances followed in quick succession on both sides, but both defenses were somehow able to weather the storm. Milan's defense was under more pressure and had it not been for a couple terrific last second plays by Abate and Mexès the score surely wouldn't have been this close going into the last 20 minutes of play.

In the 73rd minute Neymar had the deciding goal at his feet, but after a tremendous run past four defenders and making his way to near the penalty spot he simply missed the net. Only Abbiati was left to beat at that point, but Neymar wasn't able to celebrate his first Champions League goal. Barcelona followed that up with another chance, with Messi setting up Alexis, but Abbiati came up with a great save. It's was by no means a poor shot by the Chilean, but it was simply a marvelous save.

Gerardo Martino then made his first substitution of the game, replacing Iniesta with Cesc Fabregas. And Cesc proved crucial five minutes later, in the 82nd minute, when Messi scored his second goal of the game. The two played a brilliant one-two that left Messi with only the goalkeeper to beat. Messi simply waited for Abbiati to commit and fired it over the keeper and under the crossbar to restore the two goal cushion.

With the game in hand Tata was able to pull Neymar off the pitch to a standing ovation, and replace him with Pedro. Soon after Xavi also received some rest as he was substituted by Alex Song. The last minutes of the game were very calm, with Milan realizing defeat was inevitable, and Messi having a couple half-chances to complete the hat-trick that he wasn't able to convert.

With the win Barcelona solidified their place at the top of the Group H. The coupled with Ajax earning a win against Celtic, Barcelona have already secured a place in the Round of 16 of the Champions League. A first place finish can be guaranteed in the next round of group play.

In this grueling stretch that saw the Catalans play just about every three days, Barcelona play one more La Liga game before the international break. The opponent will the be the struggling Real Betis, with the game played at the Benito Villamarín in Sevilla.

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