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UEFA Champions League: AC Milan 2-0 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Well this makes things difficult...

Claudio Villa

Barcelona were simply atrocious on Wednesday night, crashing to a 2-0 defeat against AC Milan at the San Siro. The defeat leaves Barcelona teetering on the brink of elimination ahead of the second-leg at the Camp Nou and to be frank, Milan deserved to win. They may have had their fair share of luck, particularly with Kevin-Prince Boateng’s opening goal, but they put in a disciplined performance, nullifying the free-scoring Blaugrana attack for the full 90 minutes. However, contrary to popular belief, Barcelona are not eliminated yet, and while unlikely, they could still secure their place in the quarter-finals. After all, for all the talk of away goals is it really impossible to conceive a reality in which Barça force extra-time with a 2-0 win of their own?






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Jordi Roura sent out his strongest XI, as Xavi returned from injury to start in midfield alongside Cecs Fàbregas. That meant a place on the left-hand side of attack for Andrés Iniesta, while Pedro was preferred to Alexis Sánchez on the opposite flank. Would Barcelona escape the San Siro with a favourable result?

In truth, the first-half was a cagey affair. Milan started well, pressing the Blaugrana defense who struggled to adapt to the game’s early tempo. However, Barcelona soon settled into their groove, dominating possession against their Serie A counterparts – but for all their possession, Barça struggled to create anything of note in the first 45 minutes.

Credit to Milan for defending so resolutely, and in particular, to their midfield who were doing an excellent job in limiting Lionel Messi’s influence on the game but even if Messi was being effectively marked out of the game, where was his supporting cast? Cesc Fàbregas was virtually nowhere to be found and much the same could be said of Andrés Iniesta, while Xavi – who managed Barcelona’s only shot on target in the opening period – was misplacing a number of passes.

On the other hand, while Milan were defending well, they also created very little in the way of chances. Stephan El Shaarawy was causing problems on the left with his blistering pace, but his touch often let him down and as a result, neither he nor Milan mustered a single shot on target in an uneventful first half.

The second half started in the same vein, neither side were able to create chances from open play, and who knows? Maybe the referee got bored with the lack of chances? Whatever reason he had, it’s safe to say he made a huge mistake around the hour-mark, allowing Milan’s opener to stand despite a clear handball from Villarreal loanee Cristian Zapata. Granted, the Colombian had little time to react as Sulley Muntari’s speculative free-kick ricocheted off Dani Alves, but his arms were in an unnatural position and the incident certainly affected play as Kevin-Prince Boateng duly dispatched the loose ball to give the Rossoneri the lead. Barca, incredulous with the Scottish official’s decision argued their case, but only made matters worse as Gerard Piqué picked up a yellow card for dissent.

The Blaugrana responded by withdrawing Cesc Fàbregas for Alexis Sánchez, a clear attacking change from Jordi Roura who hoped that the Chilean could drag Barça back into contention. This was where a fully-fit David Villa would have been useful, but of course El Guaje is sidelined with kidney stones. Not that Villa’s injury is a valid excuse for tonight’s result. On the basis of play, Barcelona deserved to lose, and Milan deserved to win – it’s as simple as that. Sulley Muntari doubled Milan’s lead on 81 minutes with a well-taken volley; effectively securing Milan’s place in the quarter-finals, or at least leaving Barcelona with a mammoth task in the second-leg at the Camp Nou.

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