Game in a sentence

Sort of okay Milan a shadow of their former European selves as they go out against a great-but-not-brilliant Barcelona.

Observations

  • Barcelona enjoy a unique rhythm at the Camp Nou, on display as usual here. The only surprise in the opening line-up was the appearance of Cuerca where Alexis Sanchez would normally be. Not that it mattered much.
  • Milan on the other hand went with their signature 4-1-2-1-2, and there was some muttering about the effectiveness of starting Robinho alongside Ibrahimovic considering the ‘will never score ever’ impression they gave off in the first leg.
  • First, let’s get to the heart of the matter across the ninety minutes of play. Barcelona are a significantly better side than AC Milan. They used the width of the pitch, they moved around the considerable Milan defence on the flanks and through the middle on several occasions, they won free kicks which Messi subsequently missed over and over. They did everything we know they do now thanks to Simon Kuper. Despite the whinging over some refereeing decisions (which I’ll get to below). Milan tired out after Barca’s third and resorted to tepid, over-the-top balls. One team had a total 21 shots, 8 on target, the other had 3 with one on target. There can be no complaints about the final result.
  • For the neutral at least, the first forty minutes were highly entertaining. Barcelona dominated early (as expected), with Messi just missing after a dandy play caught Nesta out in the 7th minute. Then Barca forced Milan into a stupid defensive mistake when Mexes lost possession and Antonini hacked down Messi in the box, who scored a penalty in the 10th minute. Antonini was an instant whipping boy, with a 3.8 whoscored.com rating, a defensive error and a penalty conceded.
  • Still, Milan kept their composure and Nocerino levelled the score and put Milan ahead on away goals in the 31st after a Barcelona-like move in the final third which saw Ibrahimovic slot brilliantly to the Milanista beardo who put it away. Barca could have defended it better and it was sort of representative of their (minor) problems in La Liga this season.
  • Then things got stupid. Referee Bjorn Kuipers awarded Barcelona a penalty after Nesta grabbed a handful of Busquets shirt in the box defending a corner. There was confusion, a whistle was blown, players surrounded the ref and KABLAMMO, penalty. It was legit to be sure, but one of those things that doesn’t usually get awarded. Messi put it away, and from then Milan looked out of it.
  • Still, Barca likely did need that third goal and Iniesta provided it after Mexes inadvertantly blocked a Messi shot to the path of Iniesta, who scored in the 53′. Soon after the Camp Nou went quiet, Milan tired out, and interestingly the only player who seemed remotely up for it on the Milan end was Robinho, who was stupidly called for handball after a one-on-one with the keeper (which failed, so, didn’t much matter).
  • Only other talking points. Can we get English-speaking announcers who can call a Barcelona game without the constant, empty hyperbole which tells us nothing but just overreaches to underline the warm, wonderful incredible feeling we’re supposed to have watching Barca be Barca? The announcer clearly couldn’t wait to tell us Messi “was human after all” after the striker missed in the 7th minute. We get it.
  • Aquilani is a Milanista. He played his 25th game for Milan today after getting subbed on for a very good Clarence Seedorf, which forces them to pay Liverpool for his services. I hope they’re happy!
  • Also come on Camp Nou, Barca aren’t going to be this good forever. You’re allowed to make noise now and again, even stand up.
  • Poor, poor Pato. Subbed on for Boateng in the 69th minute, he was subbed off again after what appeared to be an injury in the 83rd for Maxi Lopez. Looks like Paolo’s worst case scenario came true.
  • BONUS SHARMAN TWEET:

     

Three Stars

1. Messi

2. Iniesta

3. Busquets