'It was an extraordinary game': AC Milan revel in role as underdogs against Barcelona

Manager Massimiliano Allegri hails defensive display of the Serie A team

Seven-times European champions and 18-times winners of the Italian league, AC Milan are rarely cast as underdogs, yet they thrived in the role on their way to yesterday's shock 2-0 Champions League win over Barcelona.

Despite playing at home in front of a 75,000 crowd, coach Massimiliano Allegri was clearly aware of his team's limitations and accepted that his side would have to concede most of the possession to Barcelona.

The Catalans had enjoyed 65 percent of the ball before Milan opened the scoring in the 57th minute, just as Allegri had predicted they would before the match.

But, rather like Chelsea in last year's semi-final, Milan managed to nullify Barcelona's attacked by pulling all their players back into the last third of the defence, creating an almost impenetrable barrier.

It worked remarkably well and not even the combination of Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi could find a way through.

"It was an extraordinary game from a defensive point of view as we didn't concede anything to Barcelona," Allegri said.

A season which started disastrously has suddenly come good for Milan as Allegri coaxes the best out of group of players who many thought would struggle to compete both domestically and in Europe.

Allegri's future was the subject of almost weekly speculation back in September and October, yet the unflappable coach is now the hero of the hour after his side became only the second this season to prevent Barcelona from scoring.

"We did very well and I have to say that our coach was very, very good in my opinion," said chief executive Adriano Galliani, who has stood by Allegri from the outset.

"We played a perfect match. We did well to prevent them from getting inside the box."

JEERED OFF

Wednesday's rapturous celebrations were a far cry from the opening Champions League match of the season when Milan were booed off the pitch at a half-empty San Siro after being held 0-0 by Anderlecht.

Forced to sell players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic to cut costs, Milan failed to win a home game in their group and their total of eight points was the lowest of any of the teams in the last 16.

Yet the club appear to have spent wisely in the transfer market and players such as Kevin Constant, playmaker Riccardo Montolivo and teenage forward M'Baye Niang have all turned out to be astute signings.

Even Colombian central defender Cristian Zapata has come good after being relegated with Spanish club Villarreal last season.

Allegri has stressed throughout that Milan are building for the future rather than looking for immediate success.

"The team is still growing it's doing so very quickly, I think it's a team that will do well for years to come," he said.

The win brought more tributes to club president Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister who is campaigning to return to power in the weekend's parliamentary elections.

"Football is beautiful as you never know what can happen, but not even the most optimistic fan would have imagined this," Galliani added.

"We have to dedicate this win to president Berlusconi as it's the 27th anniversary of his acquisition of the club and all the fans should know who they have to thank.

"President Berlusconi brought this club to the top of the world. The fans shouldn't forget this, even when we lose to Sampdoria at home, not only when we win against Barcelona.

"Winning games like this needs great fans, a great stadium, history, tradition. I remember the final that Milan lost to Real Madrid in 1958. We have a certain history and other teams look at us with a certain respect."

Reuters

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?