Champions League: Xavi completes CV with historic comeback for Barcelona against AC Milan

The Spanish team overturned a 2-0 deficit at the Nou Camp

Barcelona playmaker Xavi said before yesterday's Champions League showdown against AC Milan that the one thing missing from the current golden generation's curriculum was an historic comeback.

The box was ticked off in memorable style at an electric Nou Camp as Barca kept their bid for a third European crown in five years alive by becoming the first team to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit without the benefit of an away goal.

The painful memory of their toothless performance in losing 2-0 at the San Siro last month was banished as Lionel Messi struck twice and Barca romped to a majestic 4-0 victory that put them through to the last eight 4-2 on aggregate.

Pressure had mounted in the buildup to Milan's visit after Barca were knocked out of the King's Cup and beaten in La Liga by Real Madrid.

The tension increased further when Real, who Barca may meet in the last eight, eliminated Manchester United to reach the quarter-finals last week.

While their arch rivals prospered, Barca's Champions League dream was hanging by a thread but Xavi, one of the most decorated players ever to play the game, and his team mates responded with a display that will live long in the memory.

"It has been many years since Barca managed an historic comeback and I have not seen the Nou Camp so animated in a long time," Xavi told reporters.

"We pressured them well high up the pitch and we played an exceptional game," added the 33-year-old, who has three Champions League crowns and is also a World Cup and double European championship winner with Spain.

EARLY GOAL

Barca were unrecognisable from the side who limped through the first leg, harrying and hassling Milan from the start and driving forward at any opportunity.

Scoring early was crucial and after Messi struck in the fifth minute and doubled the home side's lead five minutes before the break - moments after Milan forward M'Baye Niang had hit the post - Barca never looked back.

Forward David Villa, who scored Barca's third 10 minutes after halftime, saw little of the ball in his advanced central position but kept centre backs Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata occupied, allowing Messi to exploit the space.

Xavi and Iniesta kept the ball flowing rapidly and their probing runs and passes were a constant threat, while Sergio Busquets was tireless in his unheralded but crucially important defensive midfield role.

Jordi Alba, who netted Barca's fourth to kill Milan off in added time, and fellow full back Daniel Alves played more like wingers, pushing high up the pitch and repeatedly forcing the Italians into retreat.

Centre back Gerard Pique had issued another rallying cry before the game, saying Barca had to get past Milan for their ailing coach Tito Vilanova, who has stepped aside and handed the reins to assistant Jordi Roura while he has cancer treatment in New York.

Vilanova is due to complete the programme towards the end of the month and should be back on the bench for the quarter-final, first leg at the beginning of April.

"Tito Vilanova is very happy and he will be able to be present for the next round," Roura told a news conference.

"He watched the game with a huge amount of emotion and he is pleased because we are still alive in the Champions League and our position in La Liga is very good," he added.

"He has only a few days of recuperation left and we hope he will be back with us soon.

"Personally I feel calm and happy. I have always said we are going through very special circumstances right now and I am just trying to do my job."

Barca now turn their minds to La Liga and they will want to protect their 13-point lead when Rayo Vallecano visit the Nou Camp on Sunday.

Reuters

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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.

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London