FC Barcelona v AC Milan –
Final Score/Result: Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan
Man Of The Match: Lionel Messi
AC Milan held Barcelona to a draw in the last round of matches, but the Catalan giants came up with the goods in this game. They are now leading the points table in Group H with six points advantage over Ajax in third place and are through to the next round. AC Milan for their part are still second in the standings and it will be a close call between them and the rest of the two sides as only two points separates them. The result of their next match against Celtic away from home will now have a massive impact on the final standings of this group.
Barcelona, as expected, dominated the match from the outset and it took them 30 minutes to opening scoring on the night. Ignazio Abate was penalised for fouling Neymar inside the box, although the replay showed that the Brazilian went down a bit easily. Lionel Messi stepped up to take the resultant spot –kick and scored past Abbiati with an wonderfully placed spot.
Only nine minutes later Barcelona doubled their lead as Sergio Busquets headed home from close range. The chance arrived from a free-kick taken by Xavi and AC Milan’s marking from that set piece was disastrous to say the least. AC Milan though pulled one back just before half-time as a Gerard Pique turned the ball into his own net. The goal was created by a wonderful run from Kaka, who cross was deflected in by the Spanish international. It provided AC Milan with a glimmer of hope, but they could create too many openings in the second half.
In fact it was Barcelona who doubled their lead and settled the game as Lionel Messi completed his brace with a brilliant goal. The Argentine international played a wonderful one-two with Cesc Fabregas at the edge of the box and waltzed past the AC Milan defence to bury the ball at the back of the net.
Gerardo Martino was delighted with the fact that his side has secured their qualification in the fourth match itself, but sounded cautious and insisted that their primary goal is to win the group. He also expressed his concern about the fact that his side allowed AC Milan back into the game by conceding that late goal in the first half.
“Qualifying on matchday four means the pressure is off, but we still have an obligation to finish first in the group. Making negative assertions about Leo [Messi] has risks. He played phenomenally well today. Because there are no real surprises in the groups you can assume that the favourites will get through, but you never know who you will draw in the next round. We wanted to get out of the group early in order to feel better. We allowed our opponents to get back into the game [before half-time], however, and that worries me.“ – The Barcelona manager said.
Massimiliano Allegri was disappointed with the loss, but was satisfied with his team’s performance, especially in the second half. He also revealed the reason behind dropping Balotelli for this game and hoped that the Italian international can return to his best.
“Mario Balotelli suffered an injury not so long ago and his recent performances have not been great, so I preferred to start with the duo [Kaká and Robinho] who did very well in Milan against Barcelona. Still, Balotelli played well when he came on for the second half, creating a couple of good opportunities. Mario has extraordinary qualities, but he has to return to his very best both physically and mentally. I decided to start with him on the bench for his and the team’s good.
“I’m disappointed with the result, but the performance was not bad. In the first half we were unable to launch a counterattack when we had the chance to do so, mainly because we missed too many passes, but in the second half we played better. I’m sure we will be more balanced and will get better results when we recover important players like Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio from injury” – The AC Milan manager told the press.
Barcelona v AC Milan – Statistics
Lionel Messi was once again the star performer for Barcelona in this game. The Argentine international scored the opening goal of the game with an emphatic penalty from the spot, while his second was a thing of beauty. The lovely one-two to set himself up and the control to take it past the defenders was a joy to watch. He also scored from an outrageous back-heel in the game, although the goal was sadly disallowed for offside. The above heat=map depicts his movement on the pitch against AC Milan.