Lionel Messi couldn’t score while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was all alone. Barcelona dominated the falling apart pitch at the San Siro, like they do in every match they’ve played over the past few years, but couldn’t create enough constant pressure to unhinge the Milan defense and beat a very well placed Christian Abbiati.
Was Guardiola happy with the 0-0? Surely not, but there was some slowness in the air. Might I even risk saying apathy? Milan got all of their chances, all six of them, via luck. No nice build play or creative attack. Some mistake or bad bounce on the Barcelona defense. At best, some forward pressure that won them the ball. Robinho wasn’t concetrated enough when he did get a chance, as well as Ibra who missed a sitter in front of Valdes, sliding it straight into his arms.
From the Barcelona side, it was business as usual, just a little slower, too slow. Milan defended well for most of the match, and when Messi did seem to be breaking away, Alessandro Nesta chopped him down to save the day. Alexis had his breaks, but was either not accurate enough or blatantly fouled. Both the referee and the box official were meters from the incident, with no one to block their view. Like most referees, they left their courage and good judgement at the hotel, forgetting to give Barcelona the penalty.
Tello and Pedro failed to put their mark on the match. Pedro is going through a hellish season after his meteoric rise in 2010 and 2011. His shooting, his speed, his first touch. Everything went downhill this season, and he isn’t getting the playing time to bring back his confidence. Tello is actually getting quite a lot of pitch time in recent weeks, but is starting to look like a one-trick pony, who needs to dive into the play book and find something new.
Interestingly, this was the first time ever all four home teams didn’t score a goal in the first leg of the quarter finals. While it’s not really surprising regarding APOEL (losing 0-3 to Real Madrid) and Marseille (losing 0-2 to Bayern Munich) Benfica were the disappointing side of the midweek clashes. No creativity, no real urgency, letting Chelsea, without many of their regulars, force their own (ugly) style at the Da Luz and come away with a promising 1-0 lead.
I thought about giving Karim Benzema the most impressive player of the four matches award, but frankly, anything but a two goal win for Real Madrid would have been a surprise. Having Jose Mourinho speak about the economic differences – 400 million to 10 says it all. Even Bayern and Marseille felt like a done deal before the teams even stepped on the pitch. David Luiz from Chelsea was probably the best player, the anchor in his team’s defensive display. Barcelona vs AC Milan?
You can’t be surprised with Barcelona completely dominating. It happened a few months ago in their previous visit to the San Siro. Milan were lucky to steal a draw at the Nou Camp. They’e not an easy team to score against, but their offense is just too limited and predictable against this kind of team. Barcelona, with the memories of the 3-1 defeat against Inter in the 2010 Semi Final still in their minds, were probably OK with not conceding. It’s hard to see Milan actually coming away with anything from the Camp Nou if they play in the same way.