Barcelona vs. Milan  3 - 1


Mascherano thrilled with Milan win

4 April 2012 15:18

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano was delighted with his side's progress to the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of AC Milan.

The Catalans recorded a 3-1 win in Tuesday's second leg at Camp Nou after being held to a scoreless draw last week, and Mascherano feels Barca could have won by a more significant margin.

"In general, we put in a great performance in defence despite conceding a goal. The match could have ended with a much bigger difference," Mascherano said.

"This is how the coach prepared the match. We had to create a lot of chances and we knew that we had to score a lot of goals. We started with a 3-4-3 because we needed players that would stretch out the field because Milan defend really well."

Barcelona will meet either Chelsea or Benfica in the last four, with the Premier League side defending a 1-0 lead from the first leg.

But Mascherano insisted he does not have a preference which opponent they will face.

"I hope we can make it to our third final in four years. It would be great for the club and for the players," he said.

"We need to be mentally strong. Regardless of who we have to play, whoever makes it to the semi-final deserves to be there and they will be difficult to beat. I have no preference."

Barca resume La Liga action on Saturday when they take on Real Zaragoza.


Abbiati happy to push Barcelona

4 April 2012 11:05

AC Milan's Christian Abbiati believes his side made Barcelona suffer in their Champions League quarter-final encounter.

The Rossoneri recorded a scoreless draw in the first leg at San Siro last week, and appeared to be on their way to the next round when Antonio Nocerino made it 1-1 at Camp Nou before the break.

However, Barcelona netted two more goals in the remainder of the game to record a 3-1 win and eliminate the Serie A champions.

"We fought hard and made them suffer. We really scared them because with a draw we would have gone through," Abbiati said.

"It's a shame how we conceded the third goal. We go out with our heads held high, but there is bitterness because after the first-leg draw we believed in ourselves. It’s a real shame."

Looking to the remainder of the season, Abbiati stressed that AC Milan will now have to turn their attention to Serie A again.

"In the league we have eight more finals to play. We have a two-point lead and have to hold onto it tight. From tomorrow on, we'll be focused on the league again as it's the only objective left," he said.

AC Milan resume Serie A action on Saturday when they take on Fiorentina.


Angry Allegri blasts penalty ´gift´

4 April 2012 05:11

AC Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri was left gutted by the crucial second penalty 'gifted' to Barcelona in their 3-1 Champions League victory.

Lionel Messi converted from the spot twice to give Barcelona a 2-1 advantage before half-time in the sides' quarter-final tie, following their 0-0 draw in the first leg at the San Siro, before Andreas Iniesta killed off the contest in the second half with a cool finish at the Camp Nou.

Antonio Nocerino had made it 1-1 with a neat finish from Zlatan Ibrahimovic's pass, after Messi had scored the opener from the spot.

Alessandro Nesta fouled the Argentine for the first penalty, giving the referee little choice, but it was his second foul for an alleged pull of Sergio Busquets' shirt that left Allegri fuming.

"They had two penalties, one gifted by us, the other gifted by the referee," Allegri said.

"It's a shame, as it was a moment of the match where Barcelona weren't doing much and it was just before the break."

Ibrahimovic was left disgusted by referee Bjorn Kuipers' decision, claiming Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho's long-held view on perceived favouritism of Barcelona was starting to have some merit.

"We got back to 1-1 and then we saw a penalty decision given against us that I cannot understand. The ball was not in play, but he whistled. It was an odd decision, a strange decision. It ruined the game," Ibrahimovic said.

"They don't need to be given favours. We're talking about the best team in the world. I'm starting to understand Mourinho's reaction every time he comes here. I've been through it myself now. I understand more and more."

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola was happy for his players to do their talking on the pitch, claiming their 21 shots to Milan's three reflected their dominance.

"They have had three efforts on goal and we have had 21 and this is against a strong Italian team," Guardiola said.

He went on to refute former Barca player Ibrahimovic's claims as his side made the semi-finals of the competition for a fifth-straight season.

"Ibrahimovic can say the same as Mourinho but we respond on the pitch. They were two penalties.

"They were fouls in the area and they were given so they were two penalties. This is what I have been taught since I was a child.

"If Ibrahimovic says it is thanks to the referees then fine, but we have qualified five times and the players speak on the pitch, which is where they should do their talking."

The reigning champions could well face a repeat of their 2009 semi-final with Chelsea as the Londoners hold a 1-0 advantage over Benfica heading into the second leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

"Chelsea still have a game to play, in the Champions League everything is very difficult. We have to be cautious with Benfica, Chelsea have a very good team but everything is possible," he said.


Iniesta proud of Champions League record

4 April 2012 03:27

Barcelona star Andres Iniesta heaped praise on the Catalan outfit after qualifying for a fifth consecutive Champions League semi-final.

Lionel Messi opened the scoring from the spot only to see Antonio Nocerino silence Camp Nou when he slotted home just after the half-hour mark.

However, Messi notched his second penalty of the evening on 41 minutes before Iniesta, who has never lost a professional game in which he has scored, slotted home in the second half to seal a 3-1 victory and secure Barca's progress to the last four for the fifth year in a row.

"We had to work hard but we are happy to be in another semi-final," the midfielder told TVE.

"Being in a fifth consecutive semi-final means that things are going very well for us and that the team still has the ambition to get here.

"This team always shows its true colours."

Iniesta also saluted his colleagues for the way in which they maintained their composure after Nocerino's equaliser.

"With Milan, it's never over," he said. "We knew that if Milan scored one more goal we would probably be eliminated.

"However, the match was for 90 minutes and we knew that we just had to take our chances when they came."

The World Cup winner added that he does not care whether Barca are paired with Chelsea or Benfica in the next round.

"I just want to play in the semi-finals. That's what is important," he said.

Meanwhile, Iniesta's team-mate Thiago Alcantara admitted that he still cannot believe that he is playing alongside some of the biggest names in world football.

"It's an honour to be in the dressing room with these players, and to achieve these kind of objectives," the 20-year-old midfielder confessed.

"I am really happy to be at this club. I think we played a very good match and we deserved to win it."

Barcelona are bidding to become the first side to successfully defend the Champions League and have now equalled Real Madrid's all-time European Cup record for consecutive semi-final appearances.

Los Blancos won the first five tournaments between 1955 and 1960. Barca's semi-final run, meanwhile, started during the 2007-08 Champions League and they have gone on to lift the title on two occasions, in 2009 and 2011.


Nesta bemused by penalty decision

4 April 2012 03:12

AC Milan defender Alessandro Nesta was left bewildered by the penalty given against him during their Champions League loss to Barcelona.

Referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot after the former Italy international had tangled with Barcelona duo Carles Puyol and Sergio Busquets in the area as they awaited the delivery for a corner shortly before half-time of the quarter-final second-leg clash.

Milan were incensed by the decision, given the ball had not been in play at the time, and Nesta has admitted that he has no idea why he was penalised.

"I pulled Puyol out of the way but only after he blocked me," the World Cup winner said. "Not a single one of the players protested."

Team-mate Clarence Seedorf also agreed the penalty was unwarranted.

"The referee blew and the penalties were given," he said. "It's true that I didn't see what happened but, speaking to the referee, for me he made a mistake (on the second penalty).

"If he saw that a foul was being committed (before the ball was in play), he should have stopped the game, which is what always happens.

"That was a key moment in the game, but we didn't lose because of that."

Despite the controversy caused by the penalty, which Lionel Messi converted to set Barca on their way to a 3-1 victory, Nesta conceded that the better side had progressed to the semi-finals.

"Barcelona are strong," he said. "If you leave them space, they start to play like they know how.

"There's a big difference between us but I think that Milan have the economic power and the technical talent to get closer and one day or another this (Barca) team will start to fall.

"I think that in these two games we've shown that they can be beaten. But it's true that they have Messi, who's like having an extra player and good for them that they have him.

"We were unlucky and there's no shame in losing to the best in the world."

The former Lazio captain has won two Champions League titles during his decade-long Milan career.


Champions League: Barcelona 3 AC Milan 1

3 April 2012 23:51

Barcelona reached the Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 quarter-final second-leg win over AC Milan on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi stole the headlines once again, with two penalties in the first half either side of an Antonio Nocerino goal bringing him up to 14 Champions League goals for the season, a record for a single campaign.

Andres Iniesta sealed the victory early in the second half, as the home side progressed to the last four for a record fifth straight year.

With a 0-0 result from the first leg under their belts, Milan knew that a scoring draw would be enough to take them through.

A blistering counterattack after only four minutes saw Messi glide into the penalty area in the blink of an eye, but his finish went straight to Christian Abbiati.

Moments later and Messi was at it again, this time poking the wrong side of the post after being put clean through by a beautiful piece of combination play from Cesc Fabregas and Dani Alves.

The Argentine sprinted clear of the Milan backline once more in the 11th minute, but initially appeared to waste the chance with a square pass to Xavi.

However, the ball was soon back at his feet, and Luca Antonini, so assured in the first leg, slid in far too rashly, conceding a penalty.

Messi made no mistake, beating Abbiati with a low shot into the left corner to score a record 13th Champions League goal of the season and 50th of his career.

Milan equalised just after half an hour. Robinho found Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the top of the box, who in turn slid in the unmarked Nocerino on the left for a low finish past Victor Valdes to put the visitors ahead on aggregate.

Milan were heading through as things stood thanks to their away goal, but could only hold onto their advantage for nine minutes.

From a corner, a tug on the shirt of Sergio Busquetes by Alessandro Nesta was spotted, and referee Bjorn Kuipers awarded Barca another penalty.

Messi steadied himself once more from the spot, this time sending the ball into the right corner to put the home side back in front with a 2-1 aggregate lead at the end of the first half.

The Catalans increased their advantage within eight minutes of the restart.

Iniesta was perhaps fortunate to see a block by Philippe Mexes loop into his path, but did not hesitate, and stroked home from six yards.

Barca nearly added another just past the hour mark, as Messi played in substitute Thiago Alcantara for a shot that was dragged just wide.

Barca now advance to their fifth consecutive Champions League semi-final, a tournament record, and will face the winner of the Chelsea-Benfica tie, with the first leg set for April 18.


Champions League preview: Barcelona v AC Milan

3 April 2012 14:55

Only a win will do for Barcelona when they host AC Milan at the Camp Nou in their Champions League quarter-final second leg on Wednesday.

The holders looked lethargic in the sides' goalless draw at the San Siro a week ago and while Lionel Messi and co could not manoeuvre their way around Milan's miserly defence, many at the club blamed a pitch described as 'unacceptable' for the result.

Now, in the safe confines of the Cam Nou with an 'even' pitch, there will be no excuses for Pep Guardiola's side, who have won 17 consecutive games at home.

Curiously, the last time they were held in front of their faithful was back in September of last year, in the Champions League group stage, -against AC Milan.

A score draw is all Serie A leaders Milan need in Spain, but they will need to find a result without key defensive pillars Thiago Silva and Mark van Bommel, who are both injured.

For Barcelona, Carlos Puyol, rested in their 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday and used in a left-back role in the first leg, will undoubtedly return to the side on Wednesday while Cesc Fabregas is also available.

"We've dealt with it and today he (Fabregas) was better. So, even though we were forced to leave him out he will be there against Milan on Tuesday," Guardiola said after the Bilbao match.

Barcelona still have faint hopes of reining in La Liga leaders Real Madrid but will be otherwise preoccupied as they attempt to win back-to-back Champions Leagues.

Jose Mourinho's men were in formidable form in their 5-1 win over Osasuna on Saturday that arrested two straight losses but with the El Classico yet to be played, Barcelona remain in the hunt.

Massimiliano Allegri's plan to stifle Barcelona worked a treat in the first leg, with veteran Alessandro Nesta and Daniel Bonera, in particular, hard to breach in defence.

Doing that again will be a tough ask as few sides have been able to keep Barcelona's attacking armoury at the Camp Nou at bay for long.

In the Serie A, Milan threw away a 1-0 lead against Catania to eventually draw 1-1 and see their four-game winning streak come to a halt.

Former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the key for Milan with his strength and power making him unplayable at times.


Guardiola expects Milan to score

2 April 2012 23:01

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola believes his team will have to score at least twice against AC Milan on Tuesday.

Guardiola does not believe Barca will keep a clean sheet in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash.

The two sides drew 0-0 at San Siro last week in the first leg but the former Spain international is anticipating goals in their return meeting at Camp Nou.

"I take it as a given that Milan will score against us,” Guardiola admitted during his pre-game press conference on Monday.

“That's why we need to be very sharp on the attack and make the most of the chances we create."

It emerged on Monday that influential Blaugrana midfielder Xavi was a major doubt for the match because of a muscular problem but, according to Guardiola, the World Cup winner is in contention to start.

"He's been named to the squad; that means he could play," the 41-year-old coach said.


Pedro confident ahead of Milan clash

1 April 2012 18:19

Pedro Rodriguez is confident Barcelona can beat AC Milan in the Champions League quarter-final second leg at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Holders Barcelona were held to a scoreless draw at in the first match at San Siro last week, and drew 2-2 at home to Milan in the group stages of the competition earlier this season.

Nevertheless, forward Pedro remains optimistic about his team's chances of making it to the last four.

"We all believe that we can progress," he told EFE.

"Milan have some great players and will definitely not make things easy for us. However, we are confident that we can put in a good performance with the help of our fans.

"They are a very tough opponent to beat, and they can always score a goal. But we are confident that we can qualify for the next round."

Barca, who defeated Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley Stadium to lift the Champions League last season, are bidding to become the first team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.

The last club to successfully defend their European crown was AC Milan in 1990.

La Liga table

# Team MP D P
1 15 +31 39
2 16 +18 36
3 16 +20 34
4 15 +19 31
5 16 +0 29

Serie A table

# Team MP D P
5 15 +17 32
6 15 +8 27
7 16 +2 24
8 16 +3 23
9 17 -2 23