Barcelona - Two goals from Lionel Messi led a
stunning Barcelona fightback as they overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit
against AC Milan with a 4-0 demolition of the Italians at the Camp Nou
on Tuesday night.
Indeed it was a night so perfect for the Blaugrana, it was almost as if they had planned it all along.
defeat in the San Siro three weeks ago, Xavi Hernandez pointed out that
the only thing this generation of Barca players were lacking after
three leagues, two Champions Leagues and two Copa del Rey titles over
the past four seasons was a historic European comeback.
VIDEO: Barcelona v AC Milan
that in the end was achieved by almost single-handedly picking off the
doubts that had lingered over an unconvincing past couple of weeks.
murmurings over Messi's record against Italian sides, the lack of
support for the Argentine when it comes to goal-scoring and their
inability to keep a clean sheet were all answered in emphatic style on a
night that will live long in the memory of those who savoured it at the
Messi, as is customary, got the party started with a
sumptuous curling shot into the top corner after just five minutes to
break his duck from open play against Italian sides at the 10th time of
The crucial period of the match then truly began as Barca
swarmed forward towards Christian Abbiati's goal sensing their prize was
there for the taking. The Italian 'keeper halted their momentum
with two outstanding saves from Andres Iniesta drives, but despite the
possession stats that weighed heavily in the hosts favour all night, it
wasn't all one-way traffic.
Barca's insistence to play on the front foot consistently left gaps to be
exploited in behind their marauding full-backs Dani Alves and Jordi Alba.
El Shaarawy, Kevin-Prince Boateng and M'Baye Niang, however, weren't as
deadly on the counter-attack as they had been in the first-leg and the
tie was swung decisively in Barca's favour by a two-minute passage of
play just before half-time.
At one end Niang sprinted clear
through on goal, set himself ahead of the on-rushing Victor Valdes and
rolled the ball past the 'keeper only to see it agonisingly bounce to
safety off the foot of the post.
Moments later Messi weaved
another opening onto his deadly left-foot and uncorked a rasping low
drive that left Abbiati helpless to equal the score on aggregate.
there seemed only one winner, especially once a trademark Xavi pass had
cut the Milan defence wide open 10 minutes after the break and David
Villa provided the clinical finish that has been lacking from any Barca
player bar Messi all season.
With their rustiness in front of goal
well and truly mended it was left to a defence that, before Saturday's
2-0 win over Deportivo de la Coruna, had conceded in 13 straight games
to hold firm for the next 35 minutes, which they did valiantly despite
the odd scare.
And, in true Barca style, they sealed it with a
touch of carefree elegance as, with the clock just having ticked into
stoppage time and just needing to hold out to qualify, their left-back
Jordi Alba galloped the full length of the pitch to clip home Alexis
Within 90 minutes the Catalans had gone from the supposed end of an era back to Champions League favourites.
having been resuscitated, it would take a brave punter to bet against
them returning to Wembley to win the competition in the British capital
for a third time come May.