Uefa Champions League: Barcelona 2 AC Milan 2

Barça’s defence of the Champions League got off to a disappointing start at Camp Nou tonight as a last gasp goal from Thiago Silva stole a draw for Milan. Goals from Pedro and David Villa looked like giving us victory after we had fought back from conceding a goal after just 25 seconds, but our failure to secure a third goal when Milan were looking somewhat weary allowed the Italian champions to stay in the game and Thiago rose above everybody in injury time to head home Clarence Seedorf’s corner. The draw was not the worst news of the night however, that is reserved for the injury to Andres Iniesta which could see him out for 4-5 weeks.

The early goal from Pato was always going to make things complicated. We had only just started when Pato got the ball in midfield, he then knocked it into the space behind our defence and stormed after it leaving Busquets floundering, Valdés came out but for once failed in the one-on-one as Pato slipped the ball under him. It was too early to see if we were playing with a back three or whether Alves’s more forward role in the first half came as a result of going behind. Whatever the case Busquets’ lack of pace was cruelly exposed and questions will again be asked about the suitability of playing him in central defence.

It took a while for us to find our shape and there were a couple more times early on that Pato’s pace might have embarrassed us. At the other end Villa fired into the side netting and then Messi made his first run and forced his first save from Abbiati in the 14th minute. Messi then came close curling a free kick onto the outside of the post but generally our attacks were not coming to much, often due to Alves not making more of good positions. The final pass wasn’t coming from Xavi while Iniesta’s runs were coming to nothing. Messi was being shadowed a lot by Seedorf but as the half progressed he began to find more space. In the 30th minute Alves found Messi in the area but under pressure and with little angle he couldn’t find a space between Abbiati and his near post. Messi then had another run and shot but this time Abbiati saved easily but Messi was just warming up. He got it right in the 36th minute when he finally found the space to slip the ball behind Abate, sprinting after it before sending a tantalising ball across the face of the open goal for Pedro just to reach first to prod home. Xavi came close on the stroke of half time but his shot from outside the area went just wide.

The second half began with another long effort from Xavi but this time Abbiati had to dive to tip away for a corner. Then in the 49th minute Busquets surged forward only to be fouled by Cassano 30 yards from goal. David Villa has been in for a fair bit of criticism recently especially after his awful mistake against Real Sociedad, but he responded with a beautifully curled free kick over the wall that dipped out of Abbiati’s reach and into the corner.

With the lead we always look more comfortable and we began knocking the ball about in typical style. Messi had another great run into the box but Nesta demonstrated why he is such a good defender by staying with Messi all the way to deny him with a last ditch tackle. Our domination of the ball during this period was all very well but our lack of incisiveness here would prove costly at the end. We had a couple more free kicks in good positions but neither Messi nor Xavi could emulate Villa. Milan gave us just about as good a warning as they could in the 72nd minute when Seedorf’s corner fould Pato unmarked but his downward header lacked power and Valdés gathered easily. It was to prove almost a carbon copy of Milan’s late equaliser. It shouldn’t have come to this as Afellay missed an excellent chance to make it 3-1 in the 88th minute but his side-footed shot lacked conviction and hit a defender. Also, the referee might have given a foul on Eric Abidal as he was harried into giving away a late corner. It was not to be however, and when Seedorf swung in another straightforward corner we failed to challenge for the high ball allowing Silva the chance to head firmly past the helpless Valdés.

Oh well, I suppose we shouldn’t get too downhearted about this but after throwing away the lead in San Sebastian the lesson should be clear. The possession game is all well and good but we really need to get after teams in the moments when they are down. Today from the 50th to the 70th minute Milan looked completely out of it yet we failed to finish them off. Maybe it is just that we are still not at 100% physically and we need a few more games to really find our tempo, but the worrying thing is that perhaps we are losing our hunger a little. The news about Iniesta is disappointing but perhaps not so bad this season with Cesc or Thiago ready to step in. All this just goes to show we cannot have everything our own way, however good we may be, and we will need to keep working hard to maintain the levels to which we have become accustomed

Barça: Valdés 6; Alves 5.5, Busquets 5.5, Mascherano 6.5, Abidal 7.5; Xavi 6.5, Keita 6 (Puyol m67, 6), Iniesta 6 (Fabregas m39, 6.5); Pedro 7, Messi 7.5, Villa 6.5 (Afellay m84, 5.5).

Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Thiago Silva, Nesta, Zambrotta; Seedorf, Van Bommel (Aquilani m78), Nocerino, Boateng (Ambrosini m33); Pato, Cassano (Emanuelson m62).

Goals: m1 Pato 0-1, m36 Pedro 1-1, m50 Villa 2-1, m92 T.Silva 2-2

Yellow cards: m18 Van Bommel, m52 Villa, m57 Nesta, m70 Alves, m92 Puyol

Attendance: 89,861

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14 Responses to Uefa Champions League: Barcelona 2 AC Milan 2

  1. Caleb says:

    Brutal couple of goals we conceded. Not sure how to react yet, but hopefully Pep and the team get their reaction down.

  2. Bibin says:

    It will be better to have Villa back in CF role and Messi back on the right. Atleast continue like that till we hit the 100% rhythm. After that we can switch back to CF. A false 9 should be used only when it is clear that the central defenders will advance to midfield to track Messi. Otherwise it is a big waste. Think about this Alves managed to give Zambrotta a tough time yesterday, what would have happened if Messi was also on the right. What we did was we pitted our best player against their’s – Nesta.

  3. Fredegar says:

    Truly disappointing… Milan were always going to be dangerous till the end and as you say, we should just have killed them. But, and it’s not news, when we get the lead we relax a lot and just play passing football with absolutely no bite, we didn’t really threaten them once we got in front. It makes for a really boring last 35 minutes of a game that was brilliant till there, and of course leaves us exposed to what happened. I understand that tactically it’s not a good idea to go all guns blazing when you get the lead and that this conservative way has certainly served us very well over the years, but why lose all attacking intent and just wait for a counterattack that we more often than not don’t lead very well anyway?
    And it’s a bad result, it’s not unimportant. Now if we want to finish top of the group (and I couldn’t stress enough the importance to finish top of the group so as to avoid the big english clubs in the first round), we will probably have to go in Italy and score two goals at least. Some people will tell me that it’s no problem, we could do that while sleeping, but I disagree. We are most certainly capable of it, but it will require a great performance and Milan are not a team to take lightly, even if we dominated them with ease yesterday. Not the end of the world I realise, and we often have twol poor results at the start of the season so I will be glad if these are out of the way, but the manner didn’t please me yesterday.
    As for the questions concerning Busquets as a center back, I hope they have been answered now: it is not a good idea. He will always be a liability in this position, he is really really slow, he is weak in the air and, for a player of his intelligence, is surprisingly suspect in his positionning. Playing him there weakens our defense AND our midfield, as Keita is far from being as good as Busquets in the defensive mid position.
    Finally, we need to practice our defence on corner kicks. I know that Thiago Silva jumped fantastically well and it was a great goal and would have been very difficult to defend anyway, but what about the Pato attempt? Something really needs to be done in this area…

  4. FCB-Parbo says:

    Really, the boys are relaxing too much when we are leading with just 1 or 2 goals. It’s like they lost their hunger to be clinical with their attempts. Well, that’s what you get if you do that. Milan wasn’t great at all and Seedorf did showed some moves. It’s clear that the boys need some Peptalk, coz they aren’t at their best yet.

  5. Hilal says:

    I think you guys are over reacting a little. Lets keep things in perspective a bit.

    First of all it is september, and we are NEVER great in Sept (Hercules anyone?!?). This has been the case since Pep took over so it is no great shock that we havent hit top gear yet. The players are not at their sharpest yet and that is why we are not as clinical as we usually are.

    Secondly we were playing AC Milan, not some second rate team and they got an early goal which allowed them to do what they do best, which is defend. You never want to give Italian teams something to defend and that is exactly what we gave them, within 30 seconds none the less. We still managed to get the lead back against a very well organised team and one which was playing very well.

    Third, and most important, we were playing with two holding mids as our CB’s, hardly ideal.

    We still dominated the game for long spells and with a bit more sharpness we would have scored more goals.

    So lets all take a deep breath and relax because we have a remarkable team who have never let us down in the past and I dont expect them to let us down this season either.

    • barcacentralnic says:

      Hi Hilal, I agree about keeping things in perspective. It’s true we often have a couple of slip-ups early on in the season. Last year the problem was more with scoring goals; this year we are conceding too many (we have now conceded 2 in a game four times in six official games). I would be much much happier to see Busquets playing defensive midfield. For centre backs I’ll be happy with any combination of Piqué, Puyol, Mascherano and Abidal. Our attack is looking fine for now and I’m sure they will step things up as we move into October and November.

  6. blaugranaboy says:

    the return of hilal, i can barely believe my eyes! hopefully we see you here more often man!

    but im with him and nic here, there is zero need to worry, fret, etc. we need to time to hit our levels and last night wasn’t a bad result, we can win and will go out to win in each and every remaining game, including the san siro. we will get 1st and if we get 2nd, just means a tougher match earlier than later, we are big boys, we’ve got to be able to handle that.

    i actually completely disagree with any comments saying we relaxed yesterday when we took the lead. nothing changed from minute 1 to minute 90. after they took that great opening goal, they SET UP SHOP fellas. thats parking the bus to the max. ive gone over this loads of times. you are NEVER going to see chance after chance after chance with us slicing through defenses when the defense is composed of 10 players. what you will see is what happened last night, lost of passing, lots of patience, and with chances in between. after we went up 2-1 we didnt sit back and say “great, game won, lets get out of here and get a late dinner”. we played our best football after the 2-1, we were ripping them after that. and as the game went on we continued to make a good amount of chances considering the solid wall we were playing against.

    BUT, the issue was with chance CONVERSION. when a team, and not any team, AC Milan, the most legendary of all italian teams in europe, with some fantastic defensive players like the legend Alessandro Nesta, come and sit back and say try and break us down, you are only going to get chances here and there, the issue comes with converting them. messi could have scored more, he had plenty shots blocked, nesta put in a picture perfect tackle on another lovely run (when he was hitting the ground in frustration), xavi had shots, and then afellay missed a very good chance in the box. if one or two of those are converted, the topic is totally different. all that didnt happen yesterday was conversion of chances, good chances. against a parked bus your only going to get 6 or 7, so taking 3 or 4 becomes crucial.

    im with the “no busqi in center back” camp and we need to have at min mash with either abidal, puyol, or pique, and eventually just pique and puyi again. busquets is so underrated in the mid in his ability to start attacks quickly, as xavi said, hes the best one touch player he’s ever seen. but saying that, despite a very bad start last night, keita finished off with a strong performance given his limited abilities compared to his colleagues. only guy that really disappoints me still is villa, he was again so terrible last night aside from his perfect freekick. im with a comment above, we need him more in the middle of the attack. at times we had the ball on the wings and i was shouting “where is villa” cause nobody was in the middle. i often thought of etoo last night.

    as pep said, these things happen. i think he got it wrong not starting with abi and masch with adriano on the wing. come on, against milan at home, u knew they would go to defend, so adriano would have been good coming forward and his speed was good for counters. its not a criticism, just how i would have done it.

    final comment, and surprised it was not commented on, ABIDAL was unbelievable. he was everywhere, making challenges, beating players, making nice passes, shouting for the ball. on the way back to his best. i loved it

    • Hilal says:

      Haha, yeah i’ve been silent of late. Dont usually like to comment much during the off season, but i’ll be back to commenting now that things have kicked off!!

      Agree with all your points, esp the underrating of Sergio. I actually dont think he is that bad of a CB, I just think he is such a great DM that when he doesnt play there we lack that efficiency in the middle of the park. His ability to keep the ball circulating is second to none and when he is on the pitch Xavi and Iniesta play better. Hopefully our reg CB’s will be back soon so that Sergio can go back where he belongs.

      Abi is a monster. I really do love that guy. I was hoping to see him and Masch as the CB’s last night with Alves/Adriano as the full backs and Busi as the DM. I think we would have funtioned better as a team that way but what do i know eh!?!?

      The worst thing for me about the last two games were the injuries, especially Sanchez who is now out for 8 weeks!! That is so annoying, just as he was starting to integrate a bit better with the team. Hope isnt too much of a setback for him. The Iniesta injury is annoying too but I guess that is why we got Cesc and now he has his chance. I imagine he will start almost every game till Iniesta is back so that will be great for his integration. His link up play with Messi so far has been really great and I am very excited about what those two can do together!

      One thing that hasnt been stressed enough guys…. PUYOL IS BACK!!!!!!!

  7. layibiyi says:

    too many hyper guys, man….i can understand somebody doubting using possession oriented central defenders, but ridiculing the false 9 idea after a couple of relatively meaningless matches in the overall scheme of things. But he was a genius when they were working. Pep is a student of the system and he has a lot of ideas he thinks about. I for one would not mind to see the peak of his ideas. He knows better that he only has a few matches each season to test the ideas at a high level. These are the matches. So don’t be surprised if they don’t change immediately given that the ‘draws’ have been from relatively minor incidents which he also said.

    This is pep, somebody who would continue to test new ideas no matter how good the last one worked. We won six trophies in one year and he removed 2 of the most important people in the team. What do you think would happen when we won just 5, about 3 players should be removed i guess (#jokes). But seriously, these ideas are going to keep on coming and despite that, i dont think he can lose focus of the overall scheme of things. So take it easy guys.

    Cant wait for the next game!!
    and yes, no more injuries please

  8. Jfan101 says:

    Not sure why Pedro got a higher ranking then xavi other then that o agree w/everything said bousquetts shouldnt play cb and his ability to play the fast one touch ball is surly missed and keita comes no where close to filling in the gap when he takes bousquetts position. I though villa had a better secound half…. As far as fab goes I thi k he is playing well but I would like to see him roam a bit more somewhat like messi as he is great at getting I to scoring position. Just a few small set backs but nothing to worry about to much.

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