They always said that this Barcelona team never had a great comeback. It was so good it never needed win. After Lionel Messi took hits and jabs from every possible direction for having three bad matches in the “money time” he silenced everyone in one half, and Barca eventually advanced to the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win.
Barcelona knew they needed a quick opening goal, and they got one after four minutes. AC Milan defensive perfection didn’t even have time to settle. Talks of tactical genius on the part of Allegri didn’t show up. It’s mostly about perfect execution from the players, and this time, Philippe Mexes wasn’t impossible to beat. He made tow miscues on both of Lionel Messi’s first half goals, partly enabled by the fact they finally played with a true striker, and David Villa paid Roura for the starting lineup spot.
Villa scored a fantastic goal in the 55th minute after Milan were the ones who opened the second half pretty well. They forgot to play for most of the first half, believing all the compliments about their defensive abilities might hold true at the Camp Nou. But the secret to Milan’s success in the first leg was their ability to attack in numbers after every Barcelona turnover. This time, it took them an entire half to realize it, although the miss by M’baye Niang just before Messi’s second goal, hitting the post in a one on one created after a Javier Mascherano mistake, might have made the match completely different.
The same Mascherano was one of the best players on the pitch, playing as a centre back next to Gerard Pique, but it was much closer to a DM, something Roura and Barcelona needed to do two or three matches ago, bringing the kind of pressure from behind that Barcelona were missing in recent matches. The 3-4-3 was something that sounded a tad imaginary to some, too fantasy-football like, but it worked very well during Barcelona’s possessions.
The final goal, by Jordi Alba, was after Milan sent everyone forward in a desperate attempt to salvage the tie, but never really got a chance to make Valdes work for his clean sheet. The defense that has been so criticized for so long kept a clean sheet for a second consecutive match. The offensive brilliance, as usual, was left to Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, who inched a bit closer to become the greatest scorer in the history of the Champions League.