AC Milan 0 FC Barcelona 0

FC Barcelona and AC Milan fought out an intense 0-0 draw at the San Siro tonight in the Champions League quarter final first leg.  Barça dominated the game for long periods but failed to find the away goal. A poor pitch surface made the game difficult for both sets of players and the defences came out on top. The Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson ignored two possible penalties on Alexis and Puyol and now the sides will have to battle it out at Camp Nou to break the deadlock next Tuesday to see who wins a place in the semi-finals.

Pep Guardiola went for Keita in midfield over Fabregas but the rest of the team was as expected with a defence of four and with Iniesta playing wide on the left of attack. The intention was to control the game more and in general we did, though we lacked that surprise element that Cesc might have given us.

However conservative our line up may have been (and I’m only using the word conservative in relation to how we usually play) we still suffered under the initial rush from Milan and after just two minutes Busquets gave the ball away in a dangerous position which led to Robinho having a clear cut chance from about eight yards out but the Brazilian striker hooked his shot well over.

The first obvious sign of how bad the pitch was came in the sixth minute when Messi slipped taking a free kick, the ball bounced on towards the far post where Keita might have scored if had got more contact on his header. Barça began to take control, in the 9th minute Alves won the ball back and Xavi moved it on to Messi on the left, his low shot was not held by Abbiati but Alves couldn’t quite get to the rebound.

In the 14th minute we won a free kick as Ambrosini scythed into Messi. Instead of shooting Xavi played the free kick fast to Busquets on the edge of the area and his touch sent in Alexis and as the Chilean knocked the ball round Abbiati he went to ground. Our players appealed for the penalty though Alexis looked liked he may have dived as he was losing balance.

Messi had a goal ruled out for clear offside but Barça appeared to be in control. Then Milan demonstrated just how dangerous they can be with a counter which ended with Seedorf setting up Ibrahimovic and Valdés came to the rescue with a low save to his left. Barça had had more attacks but the two best chances after 20 minutes had gone to Milan. Zlatan then showed his skill to get past Piqué on the left but Puyol was on hand to clear the cross.

The danger was clear and we needed excellent performances from then on from both Piqué and Mascherano to keep Milan’s forwards quiet. In the meantime we kept trying to find a way through and with Messi often crowded out it was Xavi who created most danger, in the 26th minute he made a fine dribble before bouncing a pass off Messi and Abbiati had to save well to his right from our midfielder’s low shot. Next Xavi had a shot blocked by Nesta after Alexis’s back heel though it seems Alexis didn’t realize what a good position he was in if he had turned to shoot himself.

Alexis had another chance soon after when he chased a long ball over the top, bearing down on the goal he looked like being fastest but Antonini made it back to slide across and block. Seedorf had a half chance with a volley but he hit it straight at Valdés and a breathless first half ended with Iniesta hitting one wide and Xavi firing one over.

The chances dried up somewhat in the second half and the game became more notable for the yellow cards that might have been given to Messi, Keita and Boateng. Ambrosini either tried to make a poor joke with Messi or perhaps he simply wanted to wind him up when Messi was putting on his boots. Not quite sure what he was thinking if he believes that Messi could be intimidated like this. The yellow card had to come out after Nesta’s awful lunge on Messi and there could not have been too many complaints if the colour was red.

Both teams made substitutions and Urby Emanuelson might have made a name for himself just seconds after coming on but his very first touch failed him and the chance was gone. Barça looked to Tello to provide the spark and the youngster was soon involved though with Milan defending deeply there was little room for him to attack. The first time Tello went past his man he then shot into the side-netting and earned himself a bollocking from Messi. In the 77th minute he pulled the ball back to Messi  but the shot was deflected by Ambrosini for a corner. Xavi swung the ball in from the left and Puyol, while getting pulled back at the near post, dived and sent a header just wide of the far post. Perhaps if Puyol had not got his head to the ball the ref might have seen the shirt-pulling, perhaps not.

As the game entered the final ten minutes it was Barça looking more likely to score. Tello went past his man again but was stopped by Abbiati diving at his feet, Milan were defending deep but they were defending very well. Messi had one last chance to win it five minutes from the end but Abbiati again came to the rescue pushing the ball out invitingly in the direction of Tello, our youngster sped in and the goal looked as if it would finally come but Antonini managed to get across the goal and slide in to block.

Considering the pitch and the level of our opponents we should be satisfied with our performance if slightly disappointed with the result. Yes, a 0-0 away from home should be seen as favourable and it is certainly much better than the 3-1 defeat we suffered against Inter two years ago. Milan had very few chances though the game might have been different if Robinho or Ibra had converted one of those chances in the first twenty minutes. We will still be favourites to go through though with Milan we are going to have to be very very careful. We dominated in the group stage match at Camp Nou only to be stunned by Thiago Silva last minute equalizer. A repeat of that 2-2 draw in September will see us eliminated. We will have to be more decisive and sharper in front of goal, I imagine we will follow a familiar pattern of Barça dominating and Milan try to hit us on the break. It is going to be an incredibly tense 90 minutes. Will we rise to the occasion?

Milan: Abbiati; Bonera, Mexès, Nesta (Mesbah m74), Antonini; Ambrosini, Nocerino, Seedorf; Boateng (Emanuelson m67); Ibrahimovic, Robinho (El Shaarawy m52).

Barça: Valdés 7.5; Alves 6.5, Mascherano 8.5, Piqué 8, Puyol 7.5; Busquets 6.5, Xavi 7, Keita 6.5; Alexis 6.5 (Pedro m76, 6), Messi 6.5, Iniesta 6 (Tello m65, 6).

Yellow cards: m23 Seedorf, m57 Nesta, m61 Keita, m69 Ambrosini

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11 Responses to AC Milan 0 FC Barcelona 0

  1. Fredegar says:

    YES WE WILL!!!

  2. Caleb says:

    Personally I don’t like iniesta on the left or keita starting in the midfield. If iniestas in the mid we are far better. And cesc in attack always promises more goals than iniesta. I know messi is messi but does everyone think that gives him a license not to work as hard as everyone else on defense?

    At the very least he should hustle back enough to be onside.

    At times we try passing to messi too much. I know it’s great for him to get chances because he’s so good at finishing but it also get very predictable which in the end makes it harder for messi.

    Anyway good enough result bit I can’t help feeling disappointed.

  3. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    I just got to work, and im taking a short break just to write in. Thanks for the post-match summary Nic.

    Here’s my take on our performances for the first leg. Yes, indeed we certainly did control the match more than Milan did in terms of possession, however i’m afraid thats the maximum credit i could offer for the team in this occasion.

    Master Josep Guardiola’s decision to play Keita in midfield and Iniesta more to the left wasn’t a choice that i ever like to see against a strong opposition such as Milan.

    Isn’t Xavi and Iniesta still the best midfield combination in the world?? Why was he SO worried to just pair those 2??

    I would like to assume that the inclusion of Keita in midfield was to add more height and a little more physical power. However so, Guardiola should know at that time that, Keita is still going to loose out on on the air and in terms of power against the midfield of Milan.

    If some of us haven’t noticed, though Keita is much taller than Iniesta, he isn’t that powerful on the air, neither is he very strong in built/size. WHY KEITA AGAIN??

    Yes, we WERE REMINDED in recent weeks that Keita has the capability to SHOOT from OUTSIDE THE BOX. Was he doing that last night?? NO!! He was deployed in a more defensive role with no real purpose. All night Keita played was absolute simple passes, didn’t take on any men, hardly arrived inside the box. He just offered work rate an simple passes all night long.

    Can someone remind me WHY KEITA instead of either Fabregas, Iniesta or Thiago (3 midfield pass masters) Fabregas could play the holding role like he did in his early Arsenal days, Thiago is hardworking as well in terms of tracking back and Iniesta’s combination with Xavi in midfield is the most feared in Europe. All three represent much stronger offensive/attacking capabilities as compared to respective MR. Keita.

    2nd most important, i have to say that the signing of Alexis Sanchez is looking more and more of a mistake in terms of money spent. 26 million and 12 million in added variables seems quite a sum to spend on someone who isn’t consistent in providing the much needed end result/goals.

    Sanchez is speedy, adequate in terms of skills(rating at Barcelona’s level), and has a very good workrate, indeed. However, IMO he is still slow in looking up for passes, always looks to run with ball first, isn’t a superb crosser, possess big arms that result to lesser balance on the ball and is poor in the air.

    At Udinese, Alexis had his best moments only when he shifted from the wings to the central position. He was absolutely mediocre when played on the wings during the beginning stages.

    Now that we most often line up Messi in the central role, Sanchez is reduced to limited occasions in the middle, instead he operated more frequently in wide areas which is totally not the position he is most dangerous in.

  4. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    Sanchez is definitely our most aggressive forward. I would like to categorize most of his runs as a combination of speed, control and aggression. Aggression is what makes Alexis Sanchez unique on the Barcelona front line. That sort of aggression is obviously better deployed through the middle rather than on the wings? On some occasions, i feel Messi needs to be sacrificed on the wings. Although, i do realize that Messi is in the running for Pichichi and The Champions League Golden Boot, what’s more important than TEAM PLAY???

    The manager should look to get the most out of all his players, not solely just Messi alone IN MY HUMBLE OPINION. He signed Sanchez, now he has to play SANCHEZ in the position he is most dangerous in, on a more consistent basis. Why buy a luxurious race car just to attempt to modify it even before testing it at the maximum possible speed??

    It would be nice to see our frontline scoring freely without just looking to Messi for goals. Messi is the GREATEST, but in occasion i feel that we tend to be tooo MESSI-ish!

    As the position of Left Wing Forward, i feel that Tello is showing consistently that he SHOULD BE given the chance to start in that position on a more consistent basis. He would have been a better choice than Iniesta in that Left Wing position.

    Finally, i’ll have to give credits to MASCHERANO. The guy was a beast in defense. It is amazing how he does such a superb job, despite being pretty short in size as a CB =D

  5. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    I really hope we perform much better in Camp Nou for the 2nd leg. We’ll have to put in a much better effort than this one in order to proceed to the semis. Visca EL Barca!

  6. barcacentralnic says:

    I understand the criticism with the decision to play Keita and Iniesta on the left. Let’s be honest Pep was playing it safe which is a sign of the maximum respect he has for Milan. I’m sure Keita was told to stay tight and keep it simple. We conceded four goals in the two group games with Milan and a repeat of an open game like the one that ended 2-3 in November might have raised the risk factor slightly. It wasn’t pretty and it is not a great result, but it is not a bad one either. We would all have liked a victory but we now have a massive game to look forward to next Tuesday. Saturday’s clash with Bielsa’s Athletic should be a cracker too 🙂

  7. Fredegar says:

    Strange impression at the end of this game. I thought we were far from brilliant in the second half, but actually, in terms of occasions created/conceded, we were far better than in the first. Also, I thought Iniesta had one of his worst match in years, but as soon as he left the field, we completely lost the grip on the midfield… So what happened? I think that Pep, having seen the pitch in the first half, decided to play it safe in the second and hope we could nick a goal. And it was really not far from working, as we allowed absolutely not a chance to Milan in the second half and should probably have scored, and got a penalty too (wtf must we do to get a penalty once, having a player killed in the area?!?). Had it worked, Pep would have looked a genius again with the selection of Keita, as it stands, it’s a difficult result to take home but still a good one to leave the San Siro.

    As for Iniesta, the presence of Keita certainly explains a good bit of his realtively poor game, as he was left very isolated. But please don’t blame Keita who did what he was there to brilliantly. He may certainly slow us down in attack, but his physical presence and the help he could give to Puyol went a long way to help us to achieve our defensive performance, it’s notable that Milan created absolutely no danger on our left side during the whole game. I still would have seen Cesc in his place for the last ten minutes when Milan were clearly tired, but the Mister had clearly decided to take no risks in this second half, as was shown by the fact that we unusually attacked with no more than four or five players at a time after the break.

    So a very nervous game awaits us on Tuesday, we have shown that we have the ability to clearly beat this Milan side, but of course if they can repeat this kind of defensive performance, it will not take them much to have a chance to qualify.
    And Bilbao on saturday, my god, just not the right moment to play them, could also be that we’re out of the CL and almost dead in the league by next Wedneday, so le’t s enjoy it while it lasts!

    My final word for Seedorf, pure legend!!!

  8. barcacentralnic says:

    Here’s Zonal Marking’s excellent tactical analysis of the game http://www.zonalmarking.net/2012/03/29/milan-0-0-barcelona-lots-of-little-battles/

  9. FCB-Parbo says:

    A little bit dissapointed with the result, but I have to say that I’m still proud of the team. They did their best the barca way. Milan just parked the damn bus, they weren’t impressive in their own turf. When they are proud of such a result you know then that Barca is bigger than them. Messi has constantly been fouling hard incl. in La Liga and you know on the long run that will hurt his condition. NOT his best game, but he tried. With the Atletic game in mind I think that Pep had played it safe by not using Cesc in this game. The Camp Nou pitch will be great on Tuesday, so Barca will prevail.

    Visca Barca!

  10. Pingback: Champions League Preview: AC Milan vs FC Barcelona | barçacentral

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