NEWS
Wednesday March 28 2012
Resilient Milan lock out Barcelona

Milan and Barcelona both had numerous chances to score, including a penalty appeal, but the first leg of this quarter-final at San Siro was goalless.

These sides already faced off twice in the group phase with a 2-2 draw in Spain and 3-2 Barca victory at San Siro. This was the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final and the Rossoneri were still dealing with an injury crisis.

Thiago Silva was the latest absentee, joining Alexandre Pato, Ignazio Abate, Antonio Cassano, Alexander Merkel, Gennaro Gattuso, Mathieu Flamini and Pippo Inzaghi. Kevin-Prince Boateng made his comeback from a long injury as a substitute against Roma on Saturday, while Alessandro Nesta and Robinho were thrown straight into the starting XI after a month out. Barcelona missed David Silva, Eric Abidal, Ibrahim Afellay and Adriano, while ex-Udinese starlet Alexis Sanchez partnered Lionel Messi. Cesc Fabregas was benched in favour of Seydou Keita.

Milan got off to a very strong start and should’ve taken the lead after two minutes. Boateng’s shot was charged down and looped into the air on to the foot of the unmarked Robinho, who ballooned the volley over from nine yards.

Christian Abbiati fumbled a seemingly harmless Messi shot and Dani Alves failed to tap in the rebound. From a well-worked free kick, Sanchez went clear and Antonio Nocerino tackled to put him off, then he fell over Abbiati’s arms, but the referee waved away penalty appeals.

Messi did get the ball in the net, but was offside when tapping in a Dani Alves low cross at the back post.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a great chance when Massimo Ambrosini won back possession and Clarence Seedorf slipped a ball through the middle, but the Swede fired straight at the goalkeeper.

Messi and Xavi exchanged passes quickly to burst into the box, but the midfielder’s toe-poke was palmed away by Abbiati. At the other end, Carles Puyol intercepted a dangerous cross to Ibrahimovic and as the move continued Boateng volleyed well over.

Nesta blocked another Xavi shot from the Sanchez cut-back, but when Sanchez burst forward on the counter-attack, he was out-paced by Luca Antonini with a crucial sliding tackle to block as he pulled the trigger.

Seedorf’s volley was wayward at the end of a counter and Victor Valdes could smother, while Andres Iniesta fired wide at the back post.

Just six minutes into the second half, Stephan El Shaarawy replaced Robinho, who went straight to the bench with an ice-pack on his right foot.

Nocerino threatened on the counter-attack, but his cross was blocked by Puyol, then Nesta was booked for tacking down Messi. From that free kick, Messi curled over the bar. The Argentine went on a slalom through the Milan defence before Daniele Bonera forced him out for a corner.

Urby Emanuelson replaced a tired Boateng and with his first touch could’ve scored when clear on goal, but it let him down and the chance went begging.

Substitute Tello hit the side-netting under pressure from Bonera, but Nesta hobbled off in his first game back from a long injury lay-off. Ambrosini flung himself at Messi’s strike to block the shot from eight yards, but from the corner Puyol’s diving header skimmed the far post.

Abbiati came off his line to smother at Tello’s feet. At the 87th minute, Abbiati got a hand to Messi’s angled drive and Tello was ready to tap in from close range, but Antonini came sliding in to block practically in front of the line. Xavi drilled well wide in stoppages.

 

Barcelona had not failed to score in a Champions League match for two and a half years. Their last blanks in an away game of the knockout phase were fired in a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on April 29 2008.

Milan 0-0 Barcelona

Milan: Abbiati; Bonera, Nesta (Mesbah 74), Mexes, Antonini; Nocerino, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Boateng (Emanuelson 67); Robinho (El Shaarawy 51), Ibrahimovic

Barcelona: Victor Valdes; Daniel Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Puyol; Xavi Hernandez, Busquets, Keita, Iniesta (Tello 65); Messi; Alexis Sanchez (Pedro Rodriguez 76)

Ref: Eriksson (Swe)

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