AC Milan didn’t need to win tonight so they can qualify to the knockout stage. They needed to win, at home, against the European champions, to prove to themselves that they’ve taken the next step, back at being European contenders. Not yet. Lionel Messi and Xavi woke up at the right moments to lead Barcelona in the San Siro, coming away with a 3-2 win.
The most talked about feature prior to the match was the Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Guardiola angle. Revenge, and wishful thinking based on the stunning 2-2 draw two months ago at the Nou Camp made for a nice build up. Wishful thinking aside, reality quickly sunk in. Barcelona are simply the better side.
Lionel Messi was heavily involved early on, and his brilliant pass into the box found Keita, which found Mark Van Bommel for the own goal and a Barcelona lead. That gave Milan the wake up call they needed, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored after a neat Clarence Seedorf assist. The big turnaround? Nope. Milan lacked the energy and aggressive power that pushed Napoli into submitting Manchester City 24 hours earlier in the South of Italy.
Xavi won a very soft penalty for Barcelona, which was scored twice by Lionel Messi, easily the best player on the pitch. Still, it was one of those matches that made you feel Barcelona weren’t pushing themselves to score more, rather enjoying the passing game and the possession. Last time, it cost them 2 points.
Second Half – Kevin-Prince Boateng scored a wondeful goal with some neat back heal trickery, but Milan once again fell back and allowed Barcelona to take over. It didn’t take long for Messi to provide yet another assist, this time to Xavi, who scored the winner feeling all alone in front of Abbiati.
Despite the quality of the game, it lacked urgency, especially from AC Milan, who were the side with something to prove. Barcelona needed a draw, but were just too good when they upped the tempo just a bit. Midfield quality, even without Andres Iniesta, is just too much right now for AC Milan to handle. They’re just not at the level where they can challenge a team like Barcelona, Real Madrid and a couple of other sides.
The Barca defense looked fragile once again. Changing the four man personnel each and every match isn’t helping, and the Santiago Bernabeu visit is coming, fast. Only 17 more days if you’re one to care about numbers at the time these words are being typed. There’s no doubt that Real Madrid look like the better team right now, and not because of their 6-2 win yesterday over Zagreb.
But still it comes back to Messi. A lazy looking performance, ending up with a goal, assist and the pass that set up the opener. And it didn’t even look like he was trying that hard.