BARCELONA - Thiago Silva powered home a
header in the second minute of stoppage-time to steal a 2-2 draw
for AC Milan at holders Barcelona in the heavyweight pair's
Champions League Group H opener on Tuesday.
Barca had recovered from conceding the fifth quickest ever
goal in Europe's elite club competition, scored by Alexandre
Pato after 24 seconds, through strikes from Pedro and David
Once ahead they quickly settled into a rhythm, enjoying
almost 70 percent of possession, but failed to kill off the
seven-times champions and surrendered the lead for a second
consecutive game following Saturday's 2-2 La Liga draw at Real
Their disappointment was compounded by the news that
midfielder Andres Iniesta will be out for around four weeks
after tearing a leg muscle shortly before half-time.
"It wasn't easy trying to penetrate the opponent's penalty
area crowded with eight defenders," Barca coach Pep Guardiola
told a news conference.
"We tried but at the end they levelled from a corner. What
Milan did has a lot of merit. They made it as far as our goal
two-and-a-half times and they came away with a point."
Around 90,000 home fans packed into a sultry Nou Camp were
stunned into near-silence seconds after the start when Brazil
striker Pato left the home defence for dead and beat goalkeeper
Victor Valdes with a low shot.
With captain Carles Puyol only declared fit this week after
knee surgery and his partner in central defence Gerard Pique
sidelined, Guardiola deployed midfielders Sergio Busquets and
Javier Mascherano at the back.
The decision immediately appeared to have backfired when
pacy Brazil striker Pato exposed their obvious lack of pace.
Straightaway Barca created a slew of chances for an
equaliser before World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, after
striking a curling freekick against the post, once again came to
The Argentina forward, top scorer in the competition the
past three seasons, danced through the Milan defence to the
byline and squared for Pedro to rifle home with goalkeeper
Christian Abbiati stranded.
Barca had recovered their customary poise and a goal had
long been coming when Villa stepped up to crack the ball into
the top corner from 30 metres.
The home side were in total control without really
threatening to score a third until fullback Eric Abidal conceded
a stoppage-time corner, although the France international
claimed he had been fouled.
Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf swung the ball over for
Silva to claim an unlikely point.
"When they score an equaliser in the last minute you are
left looking a bit stupid," Barca's Brazil full-back Daniel Alves
told Spanish television. "We have to pick ourselves up and keep
Milan were missing former Barca striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic,
injured in training on Monday, among others, and coach
Massimiliano Allegri opted to use Pato and Antonio Cassano in a
Pato threatened to score a second several times during the
first half hour before fading out of the game, while Italy
forward Cassano looked short on fitness and was replaced by Urby
Emanuelson after an hour.
"Barca are still the best team in the world but sometimes
even they can draw," Allegri said.
"That's why football is so great because sometimes you lose
without deserving to and other times you win without deserving
Barca captain Puyol drew cheers when he came off the bench
in the second half but their night was further soured by the
injury to Iniesta.
The Spain international was forced off just before halftime
and replaced by Cesc Fabregas and Barca said preliminary tests
had shown he would be out for around four weeks.
"We try to look after the players as much as possible but
these things can happen," Guardiola said.
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