David Villa got a goal, but his influence was felt even when he wasnt' scoring. - Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno
Barcelona took the Camp Nou on a bad run of games, trailing 2-0 and with the looming possibility of an away goal. AC Milan came in on a blazing run of form. Yet Barcelona were the classic Barca last night and secured a breathtaking 4-0 win.
It's always easy to read too much in results. Barcelona's Javier Mascherano hit the nail on the head when he said that a team should not be judged on the past 15 days alone, but also on the past five years.
In spite of some adverse results, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Lionel Messi hadn't forgotten how to play football.
And despite a brutal couple of weeks, here Barcelona are with a double-digit lead in La Liga and heading confidently into the next stage of the Champions League.
Milan were underestimated a bit in the first match, probably due to their slow start to the season as they adjusted to not having Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva anymore. Milan started the season nowhere near the top of Serie A, as they are accustomed to being. But a closer inspection showed a team in red-hot form, climbing the table every week (they are third now).
The Rossoneri had not lost in 90 minutes since December 22, 2012. Not only that, but they had not lost by more than two goals all season, nor had they lost 2-0, the only two possible scenarios useful to Barca.
Barcelona played nearly perfectly. Not quite, mind you. There were some tense moments as the margins of error were razor-thin. However, the team as a whole definitely made up for a lackluster first leg performance with a brilliant display last night.
AC Milan were not at their best, either, of course. But beating a team like that is never a stroll in the park. What seemed the most impressive was Barca's renewed hunger and sense of mission.
Each player worked selflessly, each player kept their concentration, and each player fought hard. It's not just about Messi (who was beyond brilliant), but also about Jordi Alba, David Villa, Javier Mascherano, and yes, even Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean, in a substitute appearance, managed a goal called out by a marginal offside and an assist.
Some questioned if Barcelona would even win the match, let alone get the three goal margin required to win the tie outright. The prospect of four goals, if AC Milan got even one, seemed daunting. Some thought it was a given that Milan would score given Barca's poor defensive record.
The Blaugrana jumped to a lead not too long after kickoff, with a stunning shot from Messi. By halftime, they had leveled the aggregate score. A few minutes into the next half, Barcelona were leading the tie. And in injury time, Alba sealed the comeback. The requirement was a gargantuan task, but even that was dwarfed by the actual performance. 4-0.
Of course, as I said, it's too easy to get ahead of yourself. This is just one game, and Barca could be out in the next round. Still, it'd be a disservice to not at least savor this moment, because Barca accomplished a feat never done before in the Champions League.
That is something that will still be remembered in five years' time.