Barcelona played host to Milan on Wednesday night in the UEFA Champions League, and the Serie A giant’s woes continues after being drummed 3-1.
Barca dominated possession from the off with Busquets, Iniesta, and Xavi not allowing the Milan midfield anywhere near the ball and the game was all one way traffic for the first 15. Milan kept a tight back line but attacking wise, both Riccardo Montolivo and Nigel De Jong were barely able to set foot outside their own half.
Milan first showed signs of a counter attacking display when Muntari and Emmanuelson teamed up well on the left but the ex-Fulham midfielder ballooned his cross well over the intended targets in the box.
Xavi continued to press for Barca and his slick pass fund Adriano who whipped in a low cross but the ball evaded everyone in the box and was too far away from Alexis to get a touch goal wards.
Neymar was then fouled by Abate in the box on 29’ and the Italian received a caution. Replays show there was a definite tug on the Brazilians arm, but the near front flip that followed would more than suggest he made a big meal of it. No other than Lionel Messi stepped up and smashed the ball straight down the centre making the score 1-0.
Neymar continued to trouble and was brought down on the left wing after somehow wiggling his way out of being surrounded by 3 Milan defenders. The resulting cross was whipped in by the maestro Xavi who found Sergio Busquets who was able to head into the bottom right hand corner completely unchallenged, after some dreadful marking by the experienced Milan back line. Nevertheless, the repays showed that the Catalan was fractionally offside.
Adriano nearly made it three for the Blaugrana but his long range curling effort was tipped over by Abbiati after Xavi had found huge amounts of space in the middle of the park again.
On the stroke of half time, Milan had the ball in the back of the net courtesy of a deflection off Gerard Pique from the low cross of Kaka which snuck inside the near post leaving Valdes stranded. Milan would have been thrilled with the goal given they had spent vast amounts of time behind the ball chasing shadows.
Into the second half and Barca continued to press but on the counter attack, Kaka was denied a one v one opportunity after Pique delivered a crucial tackle and the spilling ball led to a bad challenge from De Jong on Alexis which the Dutchman was cautioned for.
Barca became desperate to kill the game off but they became increasingly frustrated in their quest for a third goal as Milan continually hacked the ball away from the goal. Xavi continued to have full control over the game in the centre of the field and the Barcelona captain sprayed the ball to all parts picking his passes at will.
It was a pass from Xavi that enabled Neymar to endure a dazzling run past 4 Milan players and after doing the hard bit, he skewed his shot sending it high and wide from 16 yards, which ruined what would have been a truly sublime goal.
Within 60 seconds, the Catalan giants were knocking on the door again testing the Milan back line, when Lionel Messi dribbled through the Milan defence laying the ball off to an unmarked Alexis Sanchez but he saw his shot well saved by the veteran Abbiati.
Milan very nearly nipped in to score an equaliser through a rare opportunity on 79’ when a through ball towards Muntari on the left hand was taken away from his path by the outstretched leg of Gerard Pique.
It was left to the 4 time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi to finally score Barcelona’s third and seal the victory after a quick passing interchange with substitute Fabregas, enabled Messi to squeeze between Mexes and Zapata who had fought so vigorously to keep Barca out in the second half, and the Argentine chipped the ball over the advancing Abbiati to make it 3-1. Any questions of his recent from can be thrown out of the window after tonight as he reminded the footballing world that he is firmly within a chance of making it 5 out 5 Ballon d’Or awards.
Milan fought very hard defensively to salvage some pride during the game, but the team simply allowed Barca to hold onto the ball and dictate the flow of the game and offered very little competition in the midfield area. Despite Mario Balotelli being introduced at half time for the visitors, few attacking threats were made, and despite the best efforts of the ex-Manchester City striker, chances were few and far between as Mascherano and Pique stood firm when called upon. The victory for Barca means that they will now progress to the knockout stages of the tournament while Milan sit currently in second on 5 points. The Milan giants face a tough challenge to progress from the group with both Celtic and Ajax left to play, and on the evidence from the game and recent league form. As for Barca they will be looking to continue their fluent form.
Man of the Match: Xavi Hernandez (Simply for the way he dictated the play in the midfield from the kick off)