Lionel Messi led Barcelona
almost effortlessly past AC Milan into the Champions League
semi-finals on Tuesday with a thrilling 3-1 victory at the Nou
Camp as the Argentine and his team mates got into the record
books along the way.
The World Player of the Year scored twice from the penalty
spot, his 14 goals in the competition so far bettering the
previous record by two. The brace took his season tally in all
competitions to an astonishing 58.
Messi helped set up the decisive third for Andres Iniesta
just after the break, assuring the holders of a place in a fifth
successive Champions League semi-final, matching a record
achieved by arch-rivals Real Madrid between 1956 and 1960.
"We deserved to qualify and we are very proud to be in the
semis for a fifth time," Barca coach Pep Guardiola said.
"We had 21 shots on target and that against an Italian team.
Barcelona will play the winners of the quarter-final tie
between Chelsea and Benfica which the London side lead 1-0 going
into the second leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
"I have no preference for the semis, the two teams would
both be very tough," Guardiola added.
The game kicked off in a crackling atmosphere, Barca leaving
three at the back and racing forward at every opportunity which
gave Milan plenty of opportunities for counter-attacks.
Messi had already come close to scoring twice when Luca
Antonini slid into the back of him in the area and bundled the
Barca forward over for the first penalty after 11 minutes.
Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati guessed right but Messi's
spot-kick was tight in the corner.
The game ebbed and flowed, the visitors showing more
ambition from the first leg and looking to play long balls up to
powerful former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It paid dividends when the tall Swede slipped a pass into
the area for Antonio Nocerino to fire in the equaliser after 32
Barca were awarded a second penalty in the 41st when
Alessandro Nesta pulled Sergio Busquets back by his shirt at a
corner, a decision that was hotly disputed by the Milan players.
This time Messi sent Abbiati the wrong way from the spot.
"We made a mistake for the first penalty, but at the second
we have seen the referee give the decision far too easily to
Barcelona," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri complained.
Barca sought to control the game more after a frenetic first
half and got the breathing space they wanted in the 53rd minute.
Messi arrowed across the edge of the area and when his shot
was blocked it broke to Iniesta, who showed great composure to
dink it over the diving keeper.
"Barcelona is the best team around, we knew that," Milan
midfielder Massimo Ambrosini told Italian TV. "I thought we
started well but they played better in the second half.
"We could maybe have done a bit more tonight but over the
two matches I don't know how much more we could have done."
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