Milan defensive masterclass keeps Messi at arm's length
Milan 0 Barcelona 0
Thursday 29 March 2012
Barcelona will have to beat Milan at home after being held to a goalless draw at San Siro last night. The reigning European Champions were frustrated by a defensive performance of the type Italian teams were once renowned for. Stirring contributions from Luca Antonini, Alessandro Nesta and Christian Abbiati kept the tie alive.
Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, refused to complain about Milan's approach. "To win the Champions League, you have to overcome a lot of things, that's what makes some sportsmen better than others," Guardiola said. "Things happen and you have to overcome then."
Milan had their best chance in the game's opening minutes. Their policy, of trying to press Barcelona into an early and costly mistake, has been tried in the past by Real Madrid and Manchester United.
It nearly worked. Just three minutes in, Milan won the ball back, and Kevin-Prince Boateng's shot was blocked by Gerard Pique. The ball flew up to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who headed it across to an unmarked Robinho. With more time and space than he realised, the Brazilian forward's rushed volley soared over the bar.
Milan did not get a better chance. Barcelona soon settled into dominance, holding the ball inside the hosts' half, all of it directed by Lionel Messi. The Argentine, unsurprisingly, was the most dangerous player, along with right-back Dani Alves.
Abbiati, busy all night, had to save from Alves before pushing the rebound away from Messi's feet. The Milan goalkeeper was fortunate not to concede a penalty, though, when Alexis Sanchez went down near the byline.
Barcelona continued to pass, and a precise exchange between Xavi and Messi ended with the former shooting at Abbiati. Sanchez then raced through on goal only to be brilliantly tackled by Antonini.
The second half was much more competitive. Milan were no longer content to sit back, instead pushing further up and denying Barça quite as much time on the ball. Cristian Tello and Pedro were brought on by the visitors to add some more incision in the final third but Barcelona's two best chances, uncharacteristically, came from Carles Puyol headers from corners.
When Abbiati palmed Messi's shot away with three minutes left it seemed certain that Tello would score, but Antonini's brave block saved Milan.
Bayern profit from keeper blunder
Marseilles' decision to field third-choice goalkeeper Elinton Andrade backfired after his mistake gifted Bayern Munich the opening goal as the German side won 2-0 in their Champions League quarter-final last night.
Andrade, preferred to Gennaro Bracigliano with first-choice keeper Steve Mandanda suspended, allowed Mario Gomez's shot to squirm under his body in the 44th minute of the first leg at Stade Vélodrome.
It was an 11th Champions League goal this season for Gomez, second only to Lionel Messi, and 37th in all competitions and kept Bayern on course to reach the final at their own Allianz Arena stadium.
Dutch winger Arjen Robben added a classy second midway through the second half to put the visitors on the brink of a place in the last four.
"We did some good things until the opener but their goal really hammered us," said Didier Deschamps, the Marseilles coach.
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