Barcelona 4 Milan 0 match report: Lionel Messi the magician conjures up Barça's stunning Champions League escape act

Barcelona win 4-2 on aggregate

The Nou Camp

Such is their complete domination of almost all La Liga matches the less-committed Barcelona supporters can be in the car park before the final whistle. Tonight as the board was held up for added time, no-one had moved from their seat.

When Jordi Alba swept in the fourth they celebrated a job well done; and such was the emotion, the home fans stayed beyond the final whistle to savor their side's passing into the last eight – the first team to come back from a 2-0 defeat in the first leg in the Champions League era.

There were many heroes but Barça's brilliant No 10 was the catalyst for this famous win. In Rome they deliberate over the identity of the new pope. In Barcelona god is still Lionel Messi. With minimum fuss and little concern for the defenders who surrounded him, he twice thrashed first-half shots past Milan keeper Christian Abbiati to leave his side needing just a third.

"Just" can be a big word in the Champions League and Milan always threatened on the break. But David Villa delivered and then as Milan laid siege on an exhausted Barcelona defence, Alba got the fourth to put the result beyond doubt.

It was a performance that would have had even Jose Mourinho doffing his cap in Madrid. He must have thought he had seen the back of Messi and Co after their first-leg defeat in San Siro – now the draw could throw Barça and Real Madrid together in the quarter-finals.

Mourinho will also have noted that this was the Barcelona of old; the team who have reached two of the last four Champions League finals; the team that are 13 points clear of the field in Spain.

They played so high up the pitch keeper Victor Valdes was often left alone in his own half. Villa went through the middle, occupying Milan's central defenders and leaving Messi to float across the line of the penalty area linking with Andres Iniesta and Xavi – the old Bermuda triangle in which so many sides have found themselves lost before.

Milan will have expected the home side to attack relentlessly from the start but the contrast in intensity from the first leg was still stark. At San Siro Messi had not mustered a shot on target, here he had his first effort in the fifth minute and it hit the back of Abbiati's net.

Xavi found him just inside the Milan penalty area and despite four white-shirted Milan defenders surrounding him the Argentine flashed a shot into the top corner. Gerard Pique had said before the game that any Barcelona supporters who did not believe the comeback was possible should give their ticket to someone else. If there were any doubters in the stadium at kick-off they were all believers now.

Barça then had a good penalty claim turned down when Pedro ran on to a long Xavi's long pass and appeared to be bundled over by Ignazio Abate. Abbiati pushed Iniesta's shot on to the bar and Messi headed the rebound into the side-netting.

As their early energy waned Milan had chances. Massimo Ambrosini robbed Messi and sent Stephan El Shaarawy clear but the Milan forward shot weakly at Valdes. Then came the moment that could have swung the tie irreversibly in the visitors' favour.

M'Baye Niang dispossessed Javier Mascherano and honed in on Victor Valdes' goal. He beat the keeper but his shot bounced off the base of the post. Barça grabbed the initiative back and made Milan pay for the miss.

This time it was Iniesta who loaded the bullet, once again it was Messi who pulled the trigger – cutting inside from the right five minutes before half-time and beating Abbiati with a low shot that made it 53 goals this season for him, and more importantly levelled the tie.

Messi started the second half almost as well as he had finished the first with the first shot on goal saved by Abbiati. Mathieu Flamini then clattered into Xavi, both he and Kevin-Prince Boateng had been booked in the first half. Flamini would now miss the next round but it was becoming increasingly clear that so would his team-mates.

Mascherano brilliantly won possession, Xavi then found Villa in space to the right of the Milan penalty area and he flashed a shot into the far corner. All the rage of a player scandalously under-used all season came to the surface in wild celebration – Barça were ahead on aggregate for the first time.

Milan were still just one goal from going through on away goals though and when Pique pirouetted precariously in his own half with substitute Bojan Krkic close by the Nou Camp's collective heart was in its mouth. Then in added time Messi fed Alexis Sanchez and Alba raced onto his cross to calmly beat Abbiati.

"We believed we could do it from the first minute, in fact from the final whistle of the last game," said Villa. "We started really fired up, as you have seen. The early goal helped us a lot, but it was something we looked for from the first minute." Alba added: "We have seen the return of the old Barcelona tonight."

The players had promised missing coach Tito Vilanova a 3-0 scoreline, they had gone one better and when he comes back at the start of next month his team will still be in the Champions League.

Man of the match Messi.

Match rating 9/10.

Referee V Kassai (Hun).

Attendance 96,000.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little