Barcelona secured their place in the Champions League last 16 with two goals from Lionel Messi helping them to a 3-1 victory over Milan at the Camp Nou. Having gone three matches without a goal, questions were being asked about Messi, but he needed just 30 minutes to find the net on Wednesday, from the penalty spot. Less than 10 minutes later it was 2-0 when Sergio Busquets headed in. From a Kaka cross, Gerard Pique diverted the ball into his own net to give the Italian visitors hope right on half time but a second from Messi seven minutes from time secured Barcelona’s win.
Gerardo Martino will be delighted to have qualified and have almost secured top spot with two games to spare, likely enabling him to make changes as he looks to keep his players fresh for the key climax to the season. No such luxuries will be afforded Milan coach Max Allegri. Indeed, the Milan coach may just settle for remaining in a job by the time the end of the season rolls around. Under mounting pressure following recent dismal results and performances in Serie A, Allegri may at least be encouraged by an improved showing at the Camp Nou, even in defeat.
Barcelona had been dominant for the first half, yet there was controversy about the manner in which they opened the scoring. Neymar certainly went down easily in the box after contact from Ignazio Abate, yet there was a clear tug from the Milan defender and the referee’s decision was ultimately correct.
The second goal was down to some dreadful organization from a set piece. Xavi’s in-swinging free-kick saw Milan’s offside trap allow Busquets to be left completely unchecked six yards out and header down and into the corner.
Completely against the run of play, Milan pulled a goal back before the break. Kaka showed a burst of pace of old down the left and his pull back from the byline was turned into the net by the outstretched boot of Pique.
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Despite the introduction of Mario Balotelli at half time Milan couldn’t find an equalizer and Barcelona produced a trademark goal to seal victory. After exchanging passes superbly with substitute Cesc Fabregas on the edge of the box, Messi delightfully took the ball into his path and waited for Christian Abbiati to commit himself to the floor before shooting over the top of him.