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Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0: Match report – Lionel Messi strikes twice to send Catalan giants through

Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0 (4-2 on aggregate): Magical Messi makes mockery of Italian giants and Villa seals the deal

PUBLISHED:

21:34 GMT, 12 March 2013

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UPDATED:

21:58 GMT, 12 March 2013

Lionel Messi put in another astonishing display to lead Barcelona to the quarter final of the Champions League following a dominant display against AC Milan at the Nou Camp.

Two goals down from the first leg, Messi was on target after just five minutes and although Christian Abbiati was at his best to repel the home side, he could do little to stop Messi doubling Barca's lead five minutes before the break.

David Villa – preferred by Jordi Roura to Cesc Fabregas – scored a vital third before Jordi Alba's injury time strike settled the tie.

Magical: Lionel Messi celebrates after vanquishing Milan's first leg advantage

Magical: Lionel Messi celebrates after vanquishing Milan's first leg advantage

Ecstasy: Gerard Pique roars with delight after Messi's second put the teams level on aggregate

Ecstasy: Gerard Pique roars with delight after Messi's second put the teams level on aggregate

Match facts

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano (Puyol 77), Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro (Adriano 83), Messi, Villa (Sanchez 74).

Subs not used: Pinto, Fabregas, Song, Tello.

Goals: Messi 5, 40, Villa 55, Jordi Alba 90.

AC Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Constant, Montolivo, Ambrosini (Muntari 60), Flamini (Bojan 75), Niang (Robinho 60), Boateng, El Shaarawy.

Subs not used: Amelia, De Sciglio, Nocerino, Bonera.

Att: 96,000.

Ref: Viktor Kassai (Hungary).

Milan struggled to deal with the
movement of an inspired Barcelona while they failed to create enough
chances with Victor Valdes rarely tested in the home goal.

It took just five minutes for Barcelona to reduce the deficit and take the lead on the night.

Xavi's intricate pass found Messi whose unstoppable curling effort into the top corner gave Abbiati no chance.

It was Messi's 52nd goal of the season
and he almost created one for Andres Iniesta moments later before
Philippe Mexes intercepted.

The home side were in full flow and
after 13 minutes Abbiati was forced into making a fantastic save to tip
Iniesta's effort on to the bar before Messi somehow shot wide following
up.

The stopper had to be in top form four minutes later to acrobatically tip Xavi's stinging effort around the post.

Poise: Messi bent the ball home from the edge of the box to get the scoring underway

Poise: Messi bent the ball home from the edge of the box to get the scoring underway

Great start: Before long Barcelona, thanks to Messi, had wiped out Milan's first leg advantage

Great start: Before long Barcelona, thanks to Messi, had wiped out Milan's first leg advantage

Quarter finalists

Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund
Galatasaray
Juventus
Paris St Germain
Real Madrid
Bayern Munich or Arsenal
Malaga or Porto

Even at this early stage it was a case
of when, not if, they were to draw level on aggregate and the home side
thought they should have had a penalty when Massimo Ambrosini collided
with Pedro inside the box.

However, the visitors survived and
slowly began to deal with the attacking onslaught of the home side,
whilst creating chances of their own.

The best fell to lone striker M'Baye
Niang who raced clear after breaking the Barca offside trap and although
he beat Valdes, his effort hit the post and away from danger.

Under siege: Abbiati pummels the ball away as Barcelona turned up the pressure

Under siege: Abbiati pummels the ball away as Barcelona turned up the pressure

Company: Messi is surrounded by Milan players but still manages to find a way to score

Company: Messi is surrounded by Milan players but still manages to find a way to score

At the double: Messi's second goal squeezes past Abbiati's outstretched left arm

At the double: Messi's second goal squeezes past Abbiati's outstretched left arm

Milan were made to pay just seconds later and again it was Messi who was the scorer.

Ambrosini lost out to Iniesta who fed Messi, who looked to be in an offside position when the ball was played.

The flag stayed down and the Argentinian cut inside and fired past a helpless Abbiati with his lethal left foot.

Pedro picked up a booking before the
end of the half for a foul on Ignazio Abate, meaning he would miss the
quarter-final first leg should they progress, while Mathieu Flamini was
also facing a suspension for a challenge on Pedro.

Barca began the second period much
like the first and after 55 minutes Xavi's pin-point pass eluded a
sliding Cristian Zapata to find Villa, whose left-footed finish gave the
Milan stopper no chance.

Pulling the strings: Xavi (left) was at his influential best as Barcelona dominated possession

Pulling the strings: Xavi (left) was at his influential best as Barcelona dominated possession

Shackled... or not: Milan tried to keep Messi under wraps but failed miserably

Shackled… or not: Milan tried to keep Messi under wraps but failed miserably

Easy does it: Villa steers home the third with panache

Easy does it: Villa steers home the third with panache

In a bid to increase their attacking options, Massimiliano Allegri brought on Robinho and Sulley Muntari for Niang and Ambrosini respectively.

With 15 minutes left goalscorer Villa was replaced by Alexis Sanchez, with Carlos Puyol coming on for Javier Mascherano shortly afterwards.

The home side were thankful for Jordi Alba's intervention after 81 minutes to deny Robinho a simple chance from close range, before Adriano came on for Pedro.

The win was sealed late on when Alba somehow gathered the strength to burst down the left to fire past Abbiati in what was another memorable Barca performance at the Nou Camp.

Watching on: Jordi Roura takes care of Barcelona in the absence of Tito Vilanova

Watching on: Jordi Roura takes care of Barcelona in the absence of Tito Vilanova

In tatters: Abbiati rages as Villa and Co celebrate their third goal of the night

In tatters: Abbiati rages as Villa and Co celebrate their third goal of the night

Perfect show: Villa celebrates in front of Barcelona's delighted fans after his superbly taken goal

Perfect show: Villa celebrates in front of Barcelona's delighted fans after his superbly taken goal

Spotted: Ronnie Wood (of Rolling Stones fame) was seen in the crowd with wife Sally

Spotted: Ronnie Wood (of Rolling Stones fame) was seen in the crowd with wife Sally

We're a team! Barcelona fans' message of unity for their players ahead of the clash

We're a team! Barcelona fans' message of unity for their players ahead of the clash

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina wanted by AC Milan

AC Milan weigh up move for Liverpool stopper Reina

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UPDATED:

23:53 GMT, 19 June 2012

AC Milan are considering a move for Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

The Italian giants are looking to rebuild their squad after losing their Serie A title to Juventus last month.

In demand: Reina is being monitored by Italian side AC Milan

In demand: Reina is being monitored by Italian side AC Milan

Having rejected a 37million bid from
Paris Saint-Germain for Thiago Silva they want to strengthen their
defence further and 29-year-old Reina is regarded as one of the best
goalkeepers in the world.

Incumbent Milan No 1 Christian
Abbiati turns 35 this summer and although he enjoys cult status at the
club, Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri was not convinced by his
performances last season.

International duty: Reina is currently away with Spain

International duty: Reina is currently away with Spain

Reina is settled on Merseyside but a club of Milan's stature may prove persuasive with Liverpool in another stage of transition.

The former Barcelona and Villarreal goalkeeper is currently away at Euro 2012 with Spain and has not yet met new Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers.

AC Milan 0 Barcelona 0 – Scouting report

Scouting report: Milan put up wall as Barca fire blanks at San Siro

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UPDATED:

21:35 GMT, 28 March 2012

They rescued a lost cause in the last round and defied expectation in Lisbon on Tuesday, but Chelsea were left in no doubt on Wednesday night that their toughest test in this season’s Champions League still awaits them.

Barcelona or AC Milan are next, and on the evidence of a compelling first encounter in the San Siro, Chelsea will have their work cut out like never before if they get through against Benfica.

The intricate passing moves and lightning Lionel Messi surges will be familiar enough to interim boss Roberto Di Matteo, but Barcelona appear to have added set-piece ingenuity to their long list of attributes.

Always a danger: Lionel Messi (right) caused AC Milan problems

Always a danger: Lionel Messi (right) caused AC Milan problems

Milan were certainly caught unawares by a routine that almost led to a 16th-minute breakthrough. Dani Alves’ long run-up for a 30-yard free-kick pointed to an ambitious attempt at goal but quickly turned into a ruse to unhinge Milan’s defence, as Xavi took responsibility at the last moment with a pass to Sergio Busquets on the edge of the area.

Milan’s defenders remained static, as Alexis Sanchez took Busquets’ first-time flick in his stride and bore down on goal. The Barca forward was unlucky not to win a penalty, after being upended by keeper Christian Abbiati, but the lesson for Chelsea was clear. The Catalan stylists’ strengths may be apparent to anyone, but the capacity to surprise is never far away.

Claim: Alexis Sanchez could have been awarded a penalty for Barcelona

Claim: Alexis Sanchez could have been awarded a penalty for Barcelona

If they have a fault, it may be the occasional tendency to over-elaborate, as was evident in the 32nd minute when Andres Iniesta’s pinpoint pass picked out Sanchez, through on goal near the penalty spot. Control with one foot and dispatch with the other would have been any normal striker’s response, but that was too simple. Sanchez instead opted to backheel to Xavi on the edge of the area, and it cost Barca a goal, as the midfielder’s shot was blocked.

Barca lacked a cutting edge in a first half in which they dominated possession, but the dizzying speed of their passing was evident again in the 26th minute, when Iniesta and Xavi sliced through Milan’s cover, and Messi supplied the final touch for Xavi to draw a diving save out.

And what of Milan Robinho is well known to English audiences and has not lost his ability to infuriate. A figure who frustrated more than enthralled in his days with Manchester City, he had Milan fans howling their displeasure after ballooning over from eight yards in the third minute.

Denied: Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed the best chance of the game for Milan

Denied: Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed the best chance of the game for Milan

They are known as an ageing team, and were almost creaking after restoring 36-year-old Alessandro Nesta alongside Philippe Mexes in defence, but held out under Barca pressure.

Mystery continues to surround Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s standing as one of Europe’s most revered strikers. To English audiences, it does, anyway.
To hear continental observers eulogising leaves us wondering whether we missed something along the way, and both sides of Ibrahimovic were on show.

A sleight of foot to shake off Gerard Pique near the left corner was inspired, but he wasted Milan’s best first-half chance by shooting too close to Victor Valdes after being played through by Clarence Seedorf.

Honours even going into next Tuesday’s second leg.

AC Milan 0 Barcelona 0

AC Milan 0 Barcelona 0: Defending champions frustrated in goalless first leg

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UPDATED:

21:03 GMT, 28 March 2012

AC Milan survived a prolonged Barcelona onslaught to hold their illustrious visitors goalless, but will be left wondering how they fluffed some golden chances to take a first-leg lead in the Champions League quarter-final.

A series of sublime Barca attacks produced no end product, while Milan had, but wasted, by far the better openings in the match.

The hosts managed to shut out Lionel Messi in red-hot form, though, to give themselves hope for the second leg at the Nou Camp.

Happy camper: Zlatan Ibrahimovic was happy with AC Milan's draw with Barcelona

Happy camper: Zlatan Ibrahimovic was happy with AC Milan's draw with Barcelona

MATCH FACTS:

AC Milan: Abbiati, Bonera, Nesta (Mesbah 74),Mexes, Antonini, Nocerino, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Boateng (Emanuelson 67), Robinho (El Shaarawi 52), Ibrahimovic.

Subs Not Used: Amelia, Aquilani, Maxi Lopez, Yepes.

Booked: Seedorf, Nesta, Ambrosini.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol, Iniesta (Tello 65), Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Messi,Sanchez (Pedro 76).

Subs Not Used: Pinto, Fabregas, Thiago, Muniesa, Montoya.

Booked: Keita.

Att: 70,628

Ref: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden).

Milan squandered their first opening in only the third minute. Space opened up for Kevin Prince-Boateng on the edge of the area, but he hesitated for a split-second and Gerard Pique charged down the shot.

The ball was then headed back in to give Robinho an even better chance unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, but he skied the ball horribly over the crossbar when it looked a certain goal.

Lionel Messi, one goal shy of 50 in the competition, gained some unwanted attention from a laser pen as he lined up a free-kick on the edge of the area, but could only blame the turf as he slipped while taking it, with Seydou Keita was offside as he tried to head in the unintended cross.

Messi then saw Christian Abbiati spill one of his shots, but the ball somehow evaded the advancing Daniel Alves as Milan survived.

Barca, though, should have had a penalty moments later when Alexis Sanchez fell over Abbiati after beautiful play from Xavi and Sergio Busquets, but the Chilean perhaps went over too easily and was told to get up.

Barca were passing the ball about at speed and forcing passes through seemingly impossible gaps, but they continued to stutter when it mattered, with Messi offside as he tapped in an Alves cross, while Abbiati denied Xavi.

Amid it all, a first-time ball from Clarence Seedorf put Zlatan Ibrahimovic clean through, but goalkeeper Victor Valdez raced out to make a fine save at point-blank range.

Frustrated: Lionel Messi (left) was unable to replicate his recent red-hot form

Frustrated: Lionel Messi (left) was unable to replicate his recent red-hot form

Denied: Ibrahimovic missed the best chance of the game as Milan came close to stunning the holders

Denied: Ibrahimovic missed the best chance of the game as Milan came close to stunning the holders

Sanchez then looked to have broken clear, but Luca Antonini did not give it up and made a brilliant recovering tackle to prevent the shot.

The second half failed to capture the imagination in quite the same way.

Andres Iniesta cut in from the left to send an early shot wide, but it was hardly a sign of things to come as the game became scrappy thanks to a series of fouls and some unnecessary falls.
Milan lost Robinho to an injury amid the tumbles, but at least cut down the number of direct threats on their goal.

Tumble and fall: The second half was a scrappy affair as neither side could make the breakthrough

Tumble and fall: The second half was a scrappy affair as neither side could make the breakthrough

They should have been attacking themselves in the 67th minute when Urby Emanuelson came on to be handed the chance of an instant impact, only to scuff his first touch when a long ball put him clean through.

Barca began to threaten again going into the final 15 minutes. Substitute Cristian Tello fired high into the side-netting from a tight angle and then Messi saw a shot charged down and deflected wide.
From the resulting corner, Carles Puyol's diving header across goal went narrowly wide.

Shot: Alexis Sanchez tries his luck as Barcelona struggle to break down the Milan defence

Shot: Alexis Sanchez tries his luck as Barcelona struggle to break down the Milan defence

Their best chance of the half came right at the end when Messi stayed on his feet as Milan defenders fell about him, firing in a powerful shot which Abbiati could only parry across goal.

It rolled teasingly towards Tello as he raced in, but cover arrived in the nick of time for Milan.

Taye Taiwo: How Arsenal can beat AC Milan

EXCLUSIVE: My mates in the Milan dressing room and how Arsenal can beat them

Queens Park Rangers defender Taye Taiwo, on loan from AC Milan, outlines the team he would pick and reveals a few San Siro secrets that will be of interest to Arsene Wenger.

CHRISTIAN ABBIATI, 34

GOALKEEPER

Certainly a member of the mad goalkeeper’s society. He’s AC Milan’s very own Mr Hard man. You wouldn’t want to mess with him. You don’t spend so many years at the San Siro without being a great keeper. He has the physical presence to deal with what Arsenal throw at him. In Italy, people embrace older players, whereas in England, when you reach 30, people think you’re finished.

Hard man: Experience goalkeeper Christian Abbiati

Hard man: Experience goalkeeper Christian Abbiati

IGNAZIO ABATE, 25

RIGHT BACK

Loves to get forward – and that will give Arsenal’s wingers a chance to get at him. But they won’t want to give him too much space because he can cause problems. Abate’s main facets are speed and fitness. He can get up and down that flank with no problems. And the fact he has pace will help him deal with Arsenal’s speed, particularly Theo Walcott’s.

THIAGO SILVA, 27

CENTRE BACK

Off the field, Thiago is one of the quietest guys you will ever meet. But once he gets on that pitch, he changes. Thiago is undoubtedly one of, if not, the best defenders in the world. And his battle against Robin van Persie will be decisive. He has everything: pace, strength and is good in the air. But more importantly he is a very clever defender who won’t lose any sleep over dealing with the Holland striker.

Case for the defence: Thiago Silva (left) and Ignazio Abate (right) tackle Napoli's Ezequiel Lavezzi

Case for the defence: Thiago Silva (left) and Ignazio Abate (right) tackle Napoli's Ezequiel Lavezzi

ALESSANDRO NESTA, 35

CENTRE BACK

This man has been there, seen it and done it – one of the most recognisable defenders in the world. But he doesn’t like to run! If Walcott or Van Persie make a run, Nesta will not want to track them. But if a striker isn’t that mobile, then Nesta will have a glass of red wine on the go and still help keep a clean sheet. His lack of pace is something Arsenal should target. Van Persie is a clever guy, but so is Nesta.

GIANLUCA ZAMBROTTA, 34

LEFT BACK

If I was Walcott and I saw this 34-year-old man in front of me, I would be saying: ‘Just give me the ball, let me run him down.’ The thing is with Gianluca, you would never see him in training. But if we had a game on Saturday, he would pop in on Thursday or Friday – and he would always play the match. That’s something I never understood.

Weak link: Gianluca Zambrotta

Weak link: Gianluca Zambrotta

ALBERTO AQUILANI, 27

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

I always thought he might struggle at Liverpool. Given time and space, Alberto can kill teams with his passing. But in England everything is so quick and that didn’t give him time to pick out those passes. It’s like basketball in the Premier League. Italian football is much slower and that brings out the best in him. He’s gone back to Italy, been given a chance and he is proving himself now. But Alex Song will have no problem doing a job on Alberto.

CLARENCE SEEDORF, 35

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

Wow! What can you say about this man When you walk into training, you wouldn’t believe he’s achieved what he has. He’s one of the most fantastic men I’ve ever met in my life, a great man. He is always willing to pass advice to the younger players. If you’ve had a bad game or training session, Clarence is the first to put an arm round you. He is the father of the AC Milan squad. But despite his age, he still has so much to offer on the pitch. He can keep the ball for as long as he wants to.

Midfield maestro: Clarence Seedorf is still going strong

Midfield maestro: Clarence Seedorf is still going strong

MARK VAN BOMMEL, 34

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

Will be handed the task of breaking up Arsenal’s pretty passing patterns in midfield. He absolutely loves a tackle. If an opponent beats or goes in hard on him, Mark will remember it and smash him the next time. He may pick up a yellow card – but he will get you back. A vital part of the Milan midfield.

ROBINHO, 28

FORWARD

Magic. A defender’s nightmare. If you press him, he will take it past you. If you back off, he can single-handedly win you a game. He wants the ball to feet every time, you won’t see him make 40-yard runs into the box. But one versus one, there is no-one better. Arsenal will have to keep a close eye on him. He won’t stay out on the right, he will roam – even more so with Thomas Vermaelen at left back. Robinho knows he will be in for a tough battle, so he will drift in from the right wing.

Strikeforce: Ibrahimovic and Robinho will hope to put Arsenal to the sword

Strikeforce: Ibrahimovic and Robinho will hope to put Arsenal to the sword

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC, 30

CENTRE FORWARD

He’s got this reputation for being arrogant – and maybe on the field that’s right. But away from football he is a very nice guy. But boy, does Zlatan like to have a moan! If you don’t pass the ball to his feet, you will get it in the ear. He isn’t a striker who is going to make darting runs. He always wants the ball to feet. So in that sense he is a player who is quite easy to mark, unlike Filippo Inzaghi, who is always on the move. But if he gets the ball to feet, then you can’t get it off him because he is so strong.

ANTONIO NOCERINO, 26

FORWARD

Turning into an important player. Like Robinho, expect him to float about. He’s not incredibly quick but has a lot of strength. Antonio will not stop running and won’t give Arsenal’s defenders a minute’s peace. Could cause problems, particularly in the latter stages.

Behind enemy lines: Taye Taiwo

Behind enemy lines: Taye Taiwo

My five-point plan…

1 Don’t sit back! Attack Milan in the San Siro. They aren’t used to teams doing it and won’t know how to deal with it.

2 Theo Walcott should target Gianluca Zambrotta, he won’t be able to
deal with his pace.

3 Arsenal’s front three should target Alessandro Nesta with their pace. He does not like tracking runners and is short of pace.

4 If Alberto Aquilani plays, Alex Song should get in his face. He needs time to pick out his potentially deadly passes.

5 Laurent Koscielny can’t let Zlatan Ibrahimovic bully him. If he imposes himself, then Arsenal could be in for a long night.