Barça 4 – Milan 0, as we left our skin on the pitch

Jordi Alba

Yes. After Lexus heeded thousands of throats and swung the ball over to the other side of the pitch. After Jordi Alba received it with only Abbiati to beat. After the ball hit the net for the fourth time with a minute left to play. After more than ninety minutes had already passed, it was finally removed from our hearts.

Hands up those who during the weeks leading up to match day gave in to that most human of emotions.

Doubt.

There’s no shame in feeling it. My hands are up there, kinda, and I am not ashamed of it. It’s as natural as dandruff. If after San Siro I offered a glimmer of hope by listing the terrible comebacks suffered by our Milanese maestros, it was still but a perfunctory glimmer to end the review. Subsequent losses to M***** helped to fade its twinkle.

The robbery at Manchester (has the ref been locked up in a Turkish prison yet?) lit up a flame of rage in my belly. Our season’s over. M*****’s gonna dwarf our domestic success by winning the Champion’s League. There is no comeback from Two Zero. What remontada? Like we never heard that promise before. We need to score at least three but we don’t create chances. We cannot concede but our defense has not been this weak since 1962.

Doubt? I have no doubt. We are done for!

Still, fanhood is such that loss of belief can only be temporary. Right about the time my heart started making room for some belief, Kxevin served us with a reminder that, yes, we must believe. And although I still didn’t think we would go through, I believed we had a chance. With a game left to play, even the hopeless hope.

So when superassistant Roura offered us a hand with some VV, JA, Masch, Piqué, DA, Busi, Xavi, Ini, Messi, Villa and P! I didn’t fret about why the line-up did not include Adriano and Alexis Sanchez, two players I thought would heighten our chances of success. I believed our technical staff knows best.

We started well, and then we started well. After zipping the leather around as if the Camp Nou were a giant pinball machine Messi scored a goal that was so unbelievable it removed all doubt. Now I believed.

Balotelli, are you watching?

Balotelli, are you watching?

 

Soon, the not-so-quite rossoneri got caught up in a blaugrana whirlwind. On the ball we tried to score goal number 2 and 3 at the same time. Off the ball we squeezed the soul out of our bodies to get that mofo back. It was a delight and quite frankly an exhilarating sight to see us press Milan so intensively during those first twenty minutes. Iniesta was all over the place. Dani Alves all but stripped players naked in order to win the ball. Even Xavi sprinted at the goalkeeper to amp up the pressure.

The widely wished for early opening goal shook their foundations and the immediate harassment of any Italian with a football near his boots nearly caved their roof in. Nearly. Messi should have headed in his second after Abbiati pushed an Iniesta blast against the bar. The Milanese born goalkeeper tipped another long range effort from Xavi wide. And one of these days a penalty and red card will be given when the last defender bowls over Pedrito.

You really didn't think I was gonna let you keep that, did you?

You really didn’t think I was gonna let you keep that, did you?

 

And yet, Milan withstood the storm. They were wildly splashing the water out of their canoe with the cups of their hands, but they withstood the storm. And they almost hit us with a lightning bolt of their own.

Not fazed by the rumbling warnings of Stephane El Sharaawy, who created plenty of space only to scream a whisper at Valdés, we dedicated more bodies to the attack. It was then that the attempt was made at the our achilles heel, the old high clearance straight over our backline. Niang left our defense for dead and then he murdered the post. That sweet and tender touch of Lady Luck on the side of your cheek sure feels comforting, doesn’t it?

Believe. Tonight is our night.

Captain of the Symphony

Captain of the Symphony

 

Because as so often in this game of ours, when one fails to “decide” the game on one end of the pitch, the decision falls on the other. Ghostface swooped in to take the ball off of Ambrosini and fed La Pulga, who did not hesitate to tie the tie. Up 2-0 in our house, and for a moment I remembered that same score in that same minute against a ten-man Chelsea last year. Could it be that doubt was creeping in my heart? Don’t take no risks, let’s make it to half time without conceding.

Two minutes into the second half Messi almost dribbled past the entire defense for what would have gone down as one of the great Champion League hat-tricks had his shot not lacked conviction. It mattered not. David Villa, who had spent the previous 55 minutes (quite effectively) playing as a decoy, received his first goal scoring opportunity. In the net you go. I must guiltily admit that I found the sight of Abbiati furiously kicking the air around him hilarious.*

Up by three. It took us 135 minutes to finally take the lead with the fifth goal of the tie. And yes, of course we had to soak up some pressure near the end of the game, as our opponents tried to go for the winner. Did I doubt? No. Did I believe? Yes. Was I scared out of my wits? Hell yes! I need not have been. We held up fine, not giving away any shots on goal and sealing the victory with what was perhaps our first counter goal of the season.

Payback!

Payback!

 

Some might say we finally got revenge for the lost European Cup final of 1994, when Capello’s Milan with three missing starters in their defense went all out on our Dream Team and whupped us 4-0. I say nonsense. That was a final, and this a second round clincher.

Others will say that we have proven the naysayers wrong. The ones gleefully prophesizing the demise of F.C. Barcelona. Nonsense also. We will have to prove that over the remainder of this season, and the next one.

Don’t forget that our defensive frailty almost cost us the tie. Had Milan equalized we would most likely not have gone on to score three more goals. Ninety awesome minutes of football should not distort the weaknesses that do exist in our team.

But neither are the critics right.  Our team’s cycle is not over. That doesn’t mean we will necessarily win 3+ trophies per year like we did under Pep. As a matter of fact it is extremely unlikely that any team will repeat that four year trophy haul. But the nucleus is very much in place. As is the will to win.

Ens hi deixem la pell.

We will leave our skin on the pitch. Honestly? We have heard this phrase over and over. But I have never seen it quite like today. Not that literally. I have never seen our team fight so hard over 90 minutes. Not even during the treble season. And, more so than the scoreline, this is what makes me a believer.

Visca Barça! And thank you for a magical night!

It smells like...victory!

It smells like…victory!

 

“Isn’t this Barça team supposed to be in a slump and Messi struggling for form? F***ing papers! Full of sh*te!”

Joey Barton (Olympique de Marseille)

 

 

 

* Good keeper. He has very much impressed me every time we played him over the last two years, as has this young Milan team.

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121 Responses to “Barça 4 – Milan 0, as we left our skin on the pitch”

  1. barca96 says:

    Sorry for the OT but I was just about to post this on the previous thread and then saw that a new post was up.

    Last season when Keita scored that goal from outside the box, Kxevin claimed that only he could do it. I now would like to claim that only Villa could’ve finished that off. Only the best strikers are able to finish it off like that. Quality!

  2. Momo says:

    Just finished watching the game after not being able to watch it live due to an exam. So glad no one spoiled it for me…

    I am speechless… This team is just… Wow….wow

  3. Chiu says:

    Reposting from last thread, got hectored:

    – Our reaction to long ball pass from opposition should be taken into serious consideration for Tito,cs. Esp in the counter, our high line defense really got exposed. Exacerbated that we dont have height and speedy CB to recover or chase them. I realise this is the risk of the system like Barca. We play high line, and leave too much space between the last line and goalie. Am not sure what would be the solution. Am not blaming Masche either for that “isolated incident” of Niang run free; his height and anticipation to jump maybe a bit late or else. But that Milan chance almost cost us the expensive CL quater spot. I hope Tito could fix this soon.

    _ Villa in CF positioned really give Messi more space behind him. We saw the hesitation from Milan CB to move forward to heavy mark Messi because it would leave Villa in free space. Very good changes from Roura or Tito.Ini-Busi-Xavi also gave some lesson to Milan how to control the midfield; very crisp passing, movement and ball recovery (esp Busi)

    – The quarter final would offer many probability of big matches, even another classico. Lots of big teams ie Barca, Bayern, RM, Juve, Dortmund,PSG (big names). Just two “weaker teams” ie Galatasaray and Porto/Malaga (decided tonight). The likelihood we get draw a big team is high. Anyone hope for another classico? I personally dont mind for another classico :) Bayern, Juve and PSG are dominating their respective league. RM is recovering their top form gradually after lousy start. Dortmund not doing really good in Bundesliga, but the potential is still there. It would be an enjoyable quarter for neutrals. Just for pragmatic reason, Galatasaray or Porto/Malaga would be the best draw

    Visca Barca!

  4. Momo says:

    Also I hope this is the end of iniesta on the wing. It should be illegal to put him there while he is hitting this kind of a peak in his career.

    Cesc can play right back for all I care

  5. dmoneyq says:

    Since u messed up with d wrong crew
    Barca is now upon you
    Whatever you can do
    We’ll make you feel it times two
    Visca Barca!!!

  6. KEVINO17 says:

    Jordi Roura suddenly looks like he fell into a vat of botox.

  7. pr17 says:

    wow. the pitch looks lush. No wonder one touch passing and quick pinball movements are possible

  8. providence says:

    Twitter convo prior to the match… sidlowe was doubting us ….

    @sidlowe i learnt you said barca will be elimanted on
    Tuesday? im jux daring you, do u know what? i will jux unfollow you wen we qualify.

    @ProvyHernandez Oooh, that’s daring! Why not unfollow now and
    save yourself the time?
    9:37 a.m. Mon, Mar 11

    Provyhernandez
    @sidlowe bcos we will qualify as you watch. lets wait to see

    provyhernandez @provyhernadez
    @sidlowe you said Barca will not qualify …sidlowe you said that …

  9. IamXavi6 says:

    Good article – I admit I was SUPER cock pre first leg. trawl back I said I expected us to win 3-1 and put it to bed.

    However, for some reason I knew we could easily turn over a 2 goal deficit at home. Sure, I wasn’t as cocky as before; but the key was the early goal – and the tempo – you could see this was the Barca we knew. Pressing, fast, direct tempo, and long range shooting! delightful!

    Our wingers had space, and we had a key central figure, Villa – even if he was somewhat in and out, he still made space for Messi and demanded presence.

    Amazing also what an in form Alves can do for our team – Defensive oversights not withstanding, an absolute pleasure to watch tonight and a throwback to remind any critics – don’t write off a team with still the calibre to dismantle anyteam on the planet. Sure, it’s tough being top for 5+ years…but hey, we’re not done yet!

    VISCA

  10. Ivan Milicevic says:

    Great game from all of players. SB16 was simply brilliant. Best DMC and still growing.

    The great team and project can not disappear over the night.

    does anyone know how many passes Barca had last night?

  11. chop says:

    With the financial imbalance between the La Liga top two and the rest, it looks like Barcelona and Madrid will both continue to easily waltz into the CDR deep stages and meet each other every year between CL matches. Going to get a big ridiculous.

  12. socrates says:

    Those are some epic photos to go with a likewise performance.
    And wonderful review/response, Levon, thanks.

  13. Gogah says:

    The point on doubt is a good one. The only reason I think, some people doubted this team was that for the first time in 4 years they had lost games (milan, madrid) which they Deserved to lose. That never happened under Pep. Even when they lost, a strong case could always be made for Barca in their domination, chances created, misfortune etc. In other words, it was always Barca’s isolated errors that costed them games rather than the other team’s merit.

    A game like yesterday will bolster our confidence for the rest of the season. And like has been said before, what makes this victory even sweeter is all the adversity and doubt that preceded it. Lets enjoy this.

    I said this before, but I think the issue of playing surfaces being consistent is an important one. We cannot expect surfaces to be as slick as our home everywhere we go. We need to have a strategy to combat the wilderness. Don’t want to nitpick like a critical Cule, but we can definitely be more assured in defence. That was some extremely nervy defending yesterday. Thankfully our midfielders did most of the job in that department to ensure we weren’t exposed.

    Now for the positives – What a match by Iniesta. What a way for Messi to take hold of the game right from the get go by the scruff of its neck to answer his doubters and haters. Busi was Busi and Alves is once again the best right back in the world inspite of his usually wayward crosses. Chut de Bol sometimes Dani. I don’t care who we get for the QFs. well..Preferably RM. We have a score to settle there.
    Keep the faith y’all!

  14. andrecito says:

    that first goal…geeez…
    i couldnt watch the game live and had to download it..
    in the process of downloading, i accidentally saw the score…
    so i knew the goal was coming in the 5th minute…
    and i still jumped out of my seat when i saw it..

  15. nzm says:

    Awesome review, Lev – you captured the excitement and the tension really well. It was as if you could see me on my couch, hiding behind a cushion each time that Milan got the ball when we were 3-0!

    Very difficult to pick a MotM which proves to me that this was a team performance more than an individual feat tonight.

    But I do have 2 players to single out for their outstanding (and understated) roles in that game:

    1. Busquets. He made the difference tonight and turned our midfield from wishy-washy-pass-sideways to a more-direct-and-in-Milan’s-face unit. He was everywhere that he needed to be and we saw the results of him playing direct when he set up Messi for his 1st goal. That precise bullet of a pass into Messi’s feet for the 1-2 with Xavi before the goal was beautiful. He also was prescient in how he managed to intercept so many balls between Milan players.

    2. Mascherano. Our Argentinean dogo was amazing. His intercepts, tackles and ball recoveries quashed potential Milan attacks.

    Watch Villa’s goal and see how it happens. A ball is lost in the box between Ini and Messi. Milan goes for the quick counter with a quick pass to half-way. Up charges Masch who intercepts the pass and lays it onto Ini. Ini passes to Xavi, Xavi out to Villa and the ball is in the net.

    This – from what was going to be a Milan counter! This sequence of play was the stand-out moment for me in how well this team was playing tonight. No dwelling on the ball and no hesitation.

    ******
    Did you see Masch go over to Puyol after the game was over to apologise for his mis-header that could have been a goal for Milan? No one beats himself up more than Masch when he makes an error. (Even though I believe that even if he hadn’t got his head to that ball, it was through for Niang anyway.)

    Masch was the player chosen to talk in the studio with the Barca TV interviewers after the game last night. Once more, he was eloquent and articulate – and still berating himself for that header!

    ******
    That counter at the end? That’s how you play Alexis in his natural position on the pitch! When he’s playing at pace, his instincts take over and he has no time to over-think.

    • Messiah10 says:

      Thanks for pointing out Masch’s contribution to the 3rd goal and his outstanding last ditch defensive tackles. He was brilliant last night and everyone will remember the one incident that nearly cost us. My man of the match was Iniesta. He was so ON last night! Unreal. I can’t count how many times he took on 2,3,4 Milan defenders and came out on the other side of the tunnel with the ball tied to his shoelaces. His penetration opened up space on the left and he was pressing like a maniac possessed. His recovery tackles and all around play made him stand out for me. Busi was definitely up there. Our whole midfield was just so outstanding it’s hard to come up with superlatives. Visca Barca!

      • barca96 says:

        Hmmm sMasch got a lot of stick at the Guardian. Pretty undeserved though. His defending was aggressive. He intercepted many balls. Played his heart out!

        However, he was too aggressive at times. Way off his line leaving the back exposed especially when he got his lunges wrong. One of these days he will get booked. He was lucky to escape a booking early in the game for a lunge.

        We really needed an aggressive defender. He was better than Pique in this match. Pique gets skinned too easily nowadays.

        • nzm says:

          And yet the stats would indicate that Pique had a better game than Masch which is why I believe that you can’t place too much emphasis on statistics in context to how the game played out.

          A stat will not give you the success rate of a pass for example – it will only tell you whether a pass was successfully completed – regardless of the outcome of that pass.

          • mom4 says:

            Fox Soccer commie never wasted an opportunity to criticize Masche last night. When he did something well, he actually said something along the lines of “well you’d have to believe he was lucky there.” Don’t know why I watch with the volume on.

          • Jim says:

            Sorry but Masch is still not learning. I admire his public utterances as much as anyone and while he has that growth mindset he has a chance of improving in the position but he could have cost us the game twice in the first half hour and both in unnecessary situations. The missed header was ridiculous as it must have travelled thirty yards in the air giving him more than enough time to judge it. Don’t mind if he gets skinned doing the right thing but I’m not seeing much difference from last year when his impetuous chasing of lampard while the centre of a three man defence and failure to put in a tackle cost us dear. That said he did a lot of good work as well, none more so than his challenge leading to Villa’s goal.

    • Levon says:

      Good points about Masch and Busi. They both had very good matches although the post saved Masch from costing us the game with his mistake.

      As for Alexis, the problem is that teams don’t play us in a way that allows us to counter attack all that much. I would probably still play him over Pedrito, though.

      • nzm says:

        The risk of that counter goal is always going to happen when we have our taller players up in goal for the corner kick and only 2 back defending the front opposition player.

        It’s how Chelsea scored their 3 (? I think) counter goals against us last season.

        Last night was definitely Barca’s night – great play and an element of luck – it’s what was needed!

    • fotobirajesh says:

      Busquets is our real secret weapon. I dont care the world doesnt credit him. What a player.
      and Masche was excellent too. But the commentators were too hard on him, as if he dated their wife/daughter…. Except for that mistake he was fine.
      Was he really discussing that with Puyol at the end?
      Whatever, I have to say this, it is the first goal which changed the match for us. No others could have scored it, and it gave us all the strength to annihilate them , at the same time took a lot of confidence out of Milan. It came at a picture perfect time for us.

  16. fotobirajesh says:

    I drunk alcolhol y’day night after a long time, for my team.

    Yes, Levon, I was one who had doubts about this game, with a clause of how Milan would defend. And my doubts went away at the 5th minute. That goal, who in the world, will score that goal other than our Maestro. With hardly any back lift, with soooo little time to think, with so many players closing in – when that ball went in, I was sure we were going to do it. That early goal clearly put doubts on Milan and then our pressing did the rest.

    And all the cules here, Levon, Isaiah, Euler, Kxevin, nzm, barca96, Kevino, gogah and all of you – I thought about all of you in that 5th minute, and also after the game.

    congrats Kxevin for getting that figures almost right.

    However, yday’s game reiterated something – our problem is definitely our defence. We were like chickens defending, in those last minutes. Puyol, for one time didnt look assured at all.
    Add to it, I simply cannot understand how we let Milan dominate the last 10-15 minutes. Do we still feel confident that we can defend a one goal lead – after all the experiences from the last season?

    Outside Messi, my man of the match is Busquets. What a player, what a player this young man is? I feel lucky to watch him at his best.

    Very happy for Villa and Alexis too.

    • That’s because we stopped pressing high in those 10 minutes. It’s natural that our defense struggled at that point.

      • Levon says:

        No. It is because Milan went all out. It is normal for us to be on our backheels at that point, but note that even as we were, we didn’t give away any shots in those last 10 minutes.

        • barca96 says:

          Yeah foto, I also don’t understand how all of a sudden we lost control. Once again we were pretty fortunate not to concede a goal in the dying minutes. Thank heavens Bentdner and Robinho were not quick enough.

          I don’t know Lev but usually it’s the other way around. Ok, actually up until some matches last season, the opponents would be tired by the hour mark. Nowadays, they don’t tire that much anymore and some even have enough energy to over run our midfield.

        • Jim says:

          It’s what happens when a team has nothing to lose and goes all out. They lose all inhibitions as they’re out.

  17. Messiah10 says:

    “And yet, Milan withstood the storm. They were wildly splashing the water out of their canoe with the cups of their hands, but they withstood the storm. And they almost hit us with a lightning bolt of their own.”

    Fantastic paragraph Levon! Great review. Thoroughly enjoyed it. You captured the tension at the end because I was on pins and needles until we scored the 4th goal. I let out a Niagara Falls flow of emotion as soon as the ball hit the net!!! This team WANTED it badly tonight. We did have lady luck on our side and as Ray Ray would say, “Denied by a layer of paint!” “The planets and stars aligned on Barca tonight and Messi & Co. took the Earth’s gravitational pull into account” Hearing Ray Ray call the game would’ve been the icing on the cake. :)

  18. Artur says:

    I still have goosebumps thinking about this game.
    Love your club! Visca Barca!!!!!!

  19. Levon says:

    Good morning!

    A few observations / clarifications that didn’t make the review:

    1. My motm by a country mile was Lionel Messi. He was omnipresent. His movement, passes and dribbles were sharp. He was the one who struck fear in the Milanese defenders, each of whom were begging for a yellow card every time Messi ran at them. And he scored the two most important goals (something people take for granted because well, he’s Messi, isn’t he?)

    2. Iniesta was fantastic, as were Xavi and Busquets. But I am surprised people aren’t talking about Dani Alves more. What a match (does he have any skin left?)!

    3. Masch played a great game but his structural vulnerability to high balls over the top scare the bejeesus out of me and I don’t think he will improve in that regard.

    4. What a beautiful morning to wake up to!

    • fotobirajesh says:

      exactly Levon, I cannot believe most people I talked to today are taking that first goal as something of a granted one. for me, I cannot see any other player, other than a Maradona, able to take that shot , with hardly any back lift, so fast. It was an impossible strike, which turned the match in favour of us right at the very beginning. But this is Messi.
      Otherways, Busquests all the way for me. And almost everybody played a brilliant game, even the substitutes – except Puyol.

  20. Kxevin says:

    My MOTM is Iniesta, all day, all night and on weekends. If you look for one plauer who epitomized the match for Barça, it was him. He was everywhere.

    Busquets gets second honors for me. Now we see why the new tactic is to treat Busquets as an attacker and mark him with a man. If you don’t, he does THAT to you.

    Xavi and Messi are in a dead heat for me. Messi’s goalswere remarkable, and Xavi showed that he can still pull it out for the big matches.

    — But this team did what it was supposed to do — kick the crap out of an inferior opponent. And as the club is back into an up phase of its physical periodization, the next time shouldn’t be as stressful.

    — Milan facilitated their own demise by not playing out as far with their blocks. Villa had a lot to do with that. Big match for him even as he wasn’t anywhere near his best.

    — Weird. I was watching the match play out exactly as Isid it would — aggregate draw by the half, two more from us in the second, and I thought they might nick one in the first half, though. But Niang made me a liar there. As a Fox Soccer commentator said, had Milan scored, we would just have scored some more. I agree with that. Onward.

    — Mascherano. Wow. After that win he was sad because of his error. That is a boss, and an example of why this team is so amazing — they alwayswant to be perfect, even when it is physically impossible. Remarkable.

  21. nzm says:

    Xavi out again with overstretched thigh muscle – probably when he did that movement in that “Captain of the Symphony” 4th image above.

  22. blazeofglory says:

    First of all, kudos to kxevin (and francesc of espn) . You’ve made a little better fans out of most of us.

    Guys, first of all, let us look at Milan. A team without “superstars”. The way they defeated us in the first leg was, admit it, legendary. They won because they played like a team. Collective effort.

    Now, that is what won us the tie this time around. We played like a team. I can’t remember Barca playing like this for the last two seasons. Every time we lost the ball, it was a matter of 5-7 seconds before we had it back (for most of the first 75 minutes). The last 15 minutes were nervous moments for us cules.. :D

    We pressed like wolves pouncing upon prey. We pounced and ran and gnarled like wolves kept hungry for two weeks.

    The team was awesome all right but I’d like to make at least one point on each player.

    • blazeofglory says:

      1. Valdes. It was very rare to see him in action, but the couple of times he was called, he didn’t disappoint. And his distribution was spot on. Always found a player

      2. Alves. Yes we couldn’t win the battles up air…for most of Alves’s crosses found no one. But he played like the fourth striker. He pulled defenders, threatened all game. Played like the best right back in the world without even playing at rightback.

      3. Pique. I could see hunger in his face. Yes he made tackles as if it were last ditch attempts…and displayed more effort than necessary sometimes but then was accurate with his defending.

      4. Mascherano. Is he a defender? Isn’t he? Well…one blunder with Niang could have cost the game for us. But then all great teams have had moments of luck. He was running hard, making tackles and putting his 100 percent to the game, though you may argue he could have had a nervous wreck. He made many smart moves and tackles.

      5. Jordi Alba. Fourth goal scored (like with Spain 4-0 Italy Euro Finals). That doesn’t tell the entire story. While he normally would have made more vertical runs, this game he was more of a disciplined leftback. And he contained his side allright. Great interceptions. Amazing spirit. Kept his calm all the time What a player. Best leftback in the world? Safe to say!

      6. Busquets. Underrated always. Same this game. 100 % of his passes found a Barca player. Made perfect interceptions. The centre was pretty much secured with his presence. He is the reason we need to thank why our opponents had only (one?) shot on goal.

      7. Xavi. What a game. He defies his age. He attacked, defended, passed, passed, assisted and ran the barca engine like he’s been doing since 750 BC.

      8. Iniesta. Perfectly linked with Xavi and constantly threatened the famed Italian defence. Dribbled many times inside their D-box. And created many chances. Won back balls as well.

      9. Villa. Many would say he had a quiet game before the goal. I’d say no. First, his placement disrupted their defence (as confirmed by their coach Allegri). Second, his work is to be clinical and score if and when he gets the chance. And then…xavi…Villa…weaker foot. helluva goal. won us the game.

      10. pedro. very unlucky not to be awarded the penalty. That has happened many-a-time. But i was’t dissapointed. the way the game was played, I we were going to score plenty. But then other than that had quite an average game compared to team standards. And he’s going to miss the next CL game (yellow cards)

      11. Puyol. came to the applause of the Camp Nou. Had a few nervous moments as the Milan side suddenly came to life for the last 15 minutes.

      12. Alexis. Came around in place of villa, got a goal ruled offside, and then ran, ran, and managed to score an assist in the dying seconds..to finally put to peace the millions (and millions) of the cule Hearts.

      13. Messi. Did what is expected of the best player, ever.

    • G6O says:

      The pressing was key – when we win the ball in the opponent’s half as we did so many times this game, everything is completely different. Not only are we getting more easily in dangerous positions (two of our goals happened this way) but it also has a very demoralizing effect on the other team when they can’t get the ball past the halfway line.

      Also, when Messi presses like he did today (even if not all the time), it is even worse for the other team. If Pedro or Alexis are trying to get the ball away from you, this puts pressure on you but not more than the usual in that kind of situation. You can lose the ball and it will be dangerous, but that’s how it always is if you’re a defender and you lose the ball in your own half. If Messi is running after you, it is a very different situation – if you lose the ball, you know it’s almost a certain goal, and that puts you under much more serious pressure and that destabilizes your game. That’s why the Messi-Eto’O-Henry attack was so lethal as they would all chase and each of them commanded that kind of respect.

      Madrid and Bayern are the only two teams left that can beat us. Juventus, PSG and Dortmund are good teams but we should be able to beat each of them. Let’s see what the draw on Friday determines; which reminds me – usually the quarterfinals draw determines who plays who in the semifinals too, but I see another draw listed for the semifinals this year, is that correct?

  23. Kxevin says:

    Oh, and in another bit of delight that made yesterday all the more sweet, my new soci card showed up in the mail. Portents galore!

  24. endico says:

    Like I said before we qualified that’s incredible but we need to put things into perspective before we become overjoyed now and be disappointed again later.
    AC Milan was not considered a favorite to win this competition. They had a lifeline because we were lazy in the first leg. Yesterday we were able to win because they defended but when they were behind they came out and caused us some trouble.
    My point is Barca is not the favorite anymore. We have one of the weakest back-line among the remaining teams in CL. RM, Bayern, Juventus and Dortmund won’t have much trouble with our defense but as a fan I hope am wrong.

    • G6O says:

      It’s true that Milan were not the favorites, but we have to remember that there was no difference in the way we played against Milan in the first leg and the way we played Madrid in the two losses that followed. We were equally bad in all three games and in all three games we allowed the other team to create tons of chances while we ourselves did very little. This game we raised the level of our game and Milan had two serious chances all game because most of the time they could not even get past the halfway line, which is how we sued to comprehensively beat teams in the past. This gives us reasons to think that if we play against RM the same way as we did yesterday, we will do much better – both Milan and RM used the same tactics against us and today we showed we have a solution for that

    • blitzen says:

      Dude, this is not about Milan. If the team plays like they did last night, they can beat anyone, anywhere, anytime.

      • endico says:

        I always agree with your point Blitzen but right now I beg to differ.
        Milan have far less talented and athletic players than RM, Bayern, BVB etc. They were too conservative from the beginning but when they came out they had good spell of possession and troubled our back-line. I still believe we don’t have a good defense yet to seriously withstand the onslaught of an excellent team.

    • Kxevin says:

      This tie should have taught us something, and it won’t have taught everyone the same lesson. For me, it underscored this point:

      Barça is the best team in the world when it plays its game. When it stopped pressing as much, Milan got at our defense. But Milan pressed, laid themselves open for a counter and got burned. And that’s that.

      The way we played last night would have beaten any side in the world. Period. Because for the first time this season, the team defended and attacked as a unit. Messi wasn’t standing around, Messi was pressing, which made the jobs of Busquets and the defense so much easier. Alba was alert, so when Pique got skinned, a defender had his back.

      That’s how it’s supposed to be. I guarantee you that Mourinho and his henchmen were watching that match, saying “Lordy! Thank the stars we didn’t see THAT Barça!”

      It’s always, “But the NEXT time.” I don’t believe that. There is no next time. Milan was the next to last team in the competition with a playing style that perfectly syncs with our weaknesses. Juventus is the other one. Not coincidentally, both at Italian sides.

      They didn’t defend any differently than they did at home, except for moving the blocks a little farther back because of the presence of Villa. So they had to, or the over the top balls were a danger. Smart tactical move from us. They didn’t play any worse. The difference was that we weren’t crap. And that was that.

      But the biggest difference is in the time of year. The team is coming into another physical peaking cycle. The match at Milan was typical of the team’s February performances. In the past, things such as a 1-1 draw against Stuttgart (!!) have also happened in February.

      And the team isn’t in full form yet, but will be by April. And by then, I wouldn’t want to be our next Champions League opponent.

      I do wish that cules had faith and confidence in this club. FULL faith and confidence. Instead of saying “RM, Bayern, Juventus and Dortmund won’t have much trouble with our defense,” try talking about how much trouble they are going to have with our pressing, peaking team.

      If our team plays its game, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. Because this team’s game doesn’t care about the opponent. It just does what it does.

      • endico says:

        Well good points!!! I didn’t see it this way. I hope you are right and I’m wrong. Though I’ll still be worried against any of those teams I mentioned before. Visca el Barca!!!

      • bhed says:

        And we thankfully, finally did what we do, when it counted.

        Speaking of our next opponent, I WANT the Lily White B*******s! While I’m as sick of Classicos as the next Cule, there’s only one way to truly wash out the taste of the last 2 – deny the decima, and if you want a job done right…

        Going forward, rotation will be key though. Any word on the elusive Bartra and how long he’s out for?

        • barca96 says:

          Don’t be too sure about that Bhed. I still do think that Madrid can beat us. They have perfected their tactics against us. Now it is our turn to take it a step further but there are no signs of it in the recent Clasicos.

          Who are we kidding. Even in 2011 in our best form we only became superior with clear cut chances after Pepe was sent off.

          • Jim says:

            Don’t see it that way, Barca 96. I agree we didnt do well in the recent Clasicos but for me there were solid reasons for that, the main ones being our defence had lost the notion of covering for each other, as a team we didnt press nearly well enough and we made their defence look good by the absence of Villa playing up front. We put those into place as we did last night I’m with Kxevin that nobody beats us, not even Bayern.

          • bhed says:

            If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I agree RM are still very dangerous, but if we don’t beat them, there will be a huge asterisk in people’s minds, even if we end up lifting the CL trophy.

          • Nav says:

            I expect this type of short sightedness from a Madrid fan, not barca one :P You’re completely forgetting the supercopa games afterwards, as well as the league and copa games. The last two games against Madrid were anomalies. Can Madrid beat us? Sure. So can Hercules.

  25. bhed says:

    And there was much rejoicing…

    Can anyone recommend a bar with big TV’s in old town (Gothic Qtr, Born, or Raval) to watch the next CL game in BCN? I was hoping to see a game at Camp Nou (Mallorca) and one at a pub that week. The boys fulfilled my wish!

    • nzm says:

      Flaherty’s Irish Pub just off La Rambla (towards the bottom end) will show the game:
      http://www.pflaherty.com/home.php?ciudad=barcelona&lan=en

      • bhed says:

        Big TV’s? Lots of jerseys? How early before the game should I get there in order to be able to get in?

        So I missed the reservation window for Tickets, but I’ve got Fri night reservations for Gelonch! The Mojito paper sounds intriguing…

        • nzm says:

          Big TVs with barely any walls left for jerseys, but they’ll show the game!

          It depends on how popular the game, but normally an hour before for the big games. There’s always standing room, but seats get taken quickly.

          • bhed says:

            Thanks. I meant people wearing jerseys (as in a lot of passionate Cules), not as decoration! Big TVs will be key though.

            I guess the more old-school Catalan dive bars probably don’t have big HD TVs, too bad. That’s the kind of atmosphere I want, but I want to be able to actually see the game as well.

            I imagine for a CL quarter-final, I might have to camp out the night before to get a seat, but that’s OK. If they can play hurt, I can stand for 2 hours.

      • mom4 says:

        DON’T order the nachos!

  26. Gogah says:

    And Here’s a key thing. That almost perfect, flowing game we played yesterday had no role for Fabregas.

    and sadly – neither for Puyol.

    • barca96 says:

      Puyol did ok to me. It seems that he suddenly wasn’t good enough after the slip vs Di Maria. I still value him as the 2nd best CB.

      Yeah without Cesc everything seems to be smoother and faster. With him, the ball had another station to pass through so to speak which gave the opposition more time to regroup.

  27. Manish says:

    Sometimes i have a weird feeling everything has to do with my Barca T Shirt.. The more deeper it is in the laundry bag.. the worse Barca plays.. the cleaner it is the better we play…

    During the 1st leg Milan… and the classicos it was in the laundry bag..and the results followed… i didn’t believe this.. took it out of the deportivo match.. we won.. now the crazy part…. i used the T shirt as a decorative piece and yesterday was magic..

    This T Shirt is LEGENDARY…

    Everybody ensure.. u barca kit is all clean and nice before the match…

    .. heights…

  28. Gogah says:

    And just an arbid thought – If/When Valdes vacates, one captaincy spot should be given to Mascherano. Yes, He’s not Catalan or as senior games-wise as Messi / Pique, but it’d be a great way to honor his sincerity, among other values.

  29. just listenin says:

    :) IniBESTa – that.is.all

  30. marce89 says:

    Does anyone have a good link to FULL HIGHLIGHTS that include more than just the goals?!? the best i have been able to find is a 6 minute video and it literally only shows goals

  31. TITO says:

    Couple of thoughts:

    What was different last night? We actually took shots on the goal from and around the box, which…we usually don’t. We try to tiki taka till the goal line.
    This is what happens when you actually try not to dribble it too much and just shoot the damn thing. It will go in, our bounce from somebody…regardless, it makes a sensible goal scoring chance.
    Secondly, Messi was just ridiculously good. The team worked as a team, pressed (which was something new this season), but Messi last night played like a true leader and the next captain of the team. Others see him as somebody who they should follow. He was absolutely great in that aspect.
    Thirdly, we panicked again when they pressed us in the last 15 minutes. We need to find out how to deal with those situations which will surely happen in the next important games.
    But, if any team is capable of making miracles, then this is the one.

  32. yana says:

    I tell you, I figuratively did not breathe for the last half hour. My Catalan friend likes to make this gesture when we talk about nervioso that is basically both hands in front of her mouth, chewing the nails of all her fingers. I told her we’ll need to do that over Skype for the rest of the CL games!

    Visca el Barça! I love this team so much.

    Did anyone else notice that early in the match, when players fell or slid, there were little splashes and their kits were soaking wet when they got up? That’s how well-watered the pitch was!

    Iniesta… *dreamy sigh*

    A lot has been said about Villa’s “decoy” center forward role and why it works — the genius of the tactic is that even if the defenders *know* he’s there to make space for Messi, they still can’t ignore him because he’ll do what he did last night. They *have* to let him pull them away from Messi.

    Which is why statements like “Villa’s individual goal threat was almost incidental, although he finished excellently for the third” from this Guardian article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2013/mar/13/barcelona-champions-league-alba) make me scratch my head. It’s not incidental. It is a very real threat defenders need to consider, which is why the tactic is effective. The tactic just would not have the same weight and ability to throw a wrench into the defensive formation if it were Cesc or Alexis at center forward even on their best scoring streaks. (I’m not saying Villa is a better player than them, or that our formations have no room for them, just that with this particular one… they are not center forwards.)

    I had a laugh wondering if Ibra has been watching this establishment of a non-Messi center forward with his head about to explode.

  33. Eklavya says:

    The first picture of this post is ridiculously funny xD haha

  34. Eklavya says:

    I watched the 90 minutes sitting on the edge of my sofa with the palms of my hands touching each other, in front of my chin, with the tip of both indexes touching my nose. Sort of a prayer-like pose. My back hurt afterwards for sitting like that for so long. I couldnt use the backrest of the coach due to the nervousness.

  35. icemel says:

    Levon! A review worthy of a game for the ages.

    COTR: “On the ball we tried to score goal number 2 and 3 at the same time. Off the ball we squeezed the soul out of our bodies to get that mofo back.”

    Back in the day, I said Isaiah was our Ronaldinho and Kxeven our Messi.
    …”who are you” then?…L!

    • Levon says:

      Damn, my favorite two players are taken? hahahahaha

      I am still amazed about how hard we fought. They were not only pressing aggressively, when they did press they were all over their opponents. If I were a Milan player I would feel abused!

  36. Kxevin says:

    ZubiZa said on RAC1 that the club expects Vilanova back by the end of March.

  37. y2k156 says:

    God is argentinian & now so is the pope. :)

  38. Blau-Grenade says:

    Malaga go through against all odds!!! The magic of Peligrini. Now Barca can get Jackson Martinez for cheap!!!

  39. K_legit in Oz says:

    Arsenal beat Bayern 0-2 but still exit the tournament!
    And Bayern’s frailties are exposed. Suddenly they don’t look intimidating any more.

  40. psalmuel says:

    Barca brilliant but milan got tactics wrong-goal.com. Seriously? Hurts to see that the hardwork of this team is downplayed.

  41. psalmuel says:

    zonalmarking says yestaday barca adopted pep’s 3-5-2-ish formation in the manita over sevilla

  42. nia says:

    Any Italian speaking cules here? Could you please translate what this guys was screaming about. Never have I seen a guy so crazy more than the punto pelota guy. Hilarious :) :)

    http://www.marca.com/2013/03/13/futbol/liga_campeones/1363167834.html

    • K_legit in Oz says:

      Before I even saw it I thought it must have been Crudeli!
      He’s a huge Milan fan!
      I don’t speak Italian but he is doing play by play on the game last night!

  43. TITO says:

    Having all the possible 7 opponents known for the next round…i definitely want to avoid for now RM, Bayern or Juve. Anything else is beatable. I know, you have to beat the best to be the best, but personally i don’t care about it as long as we lift the trophy. I want an “easier” opponent in the quarters, and later when we peak, we can have a go at “tougher” teams.

  44. providence says:

    so Sidlowe post here but has disguised himself .. probably Kxevin knows him ….

  45. iftakhar777 says:

    barca plays a magic game with Ac………
    it rockz BARCELONA

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