Thursday February 21 2013
Masterful Milan making waves

As Milan recorded an historic win over Barcelona, Alex Mott wonders if this is the start of something special for the Rossoneri?

Barcelona assistant boss Jordi Roura insisted on Tuesday that his side were not the favouritesMassimiliano Allegri, meanwhile, took time in his pre-match Press conference to declare: “My team will not be sacrificial lambs.”

Most fans may have thought that Milan would be the cattle to the Catalan’s Taser-rod, but the Coach didn’t believe so and neither did the players. Riccardo Montolivo spoke before the match of being ‘excited’ rather than over-awed, Kevin Prince-Boateng called for the San Siro to become a cauldron. Carles Puyol admitted that the Serie A side ‘would prove to be difficult’, Xavi Hernandez called them ‘trouble’.

The Blaugrana had failed to keep a clean sheet in their previous nine games. They had laboured to three points over Granada the previous weekend and struggled to draws against Valencia and Real Madrid. All the signs were there for Milan to pull a result out of the bag – and yet only the most fervent, or deluded, supporters actually thought they could get a positive result.

But on Wednesday night, at the Giuseppe Meazza, the impossible became two letters too long. A starting XI consisting of Sulley Muntari, Kevin Constant and Philippe Mexes defeated ‘the greatest side in history’. A team that just four months ago was being described as ‘the worst in a generation’ had out-muscled, out-thought and out-played the best in Europe.

It was a truly revelatory performance from Allegri’s men, and will surely go down as one of the best in the recent history of the club. Outstanding displays from Montolivo, Massimo Ambrosini and Giampaolo Pazzini were the icing on a cake which belonged to the whole team. Pressing from the front, the Spanish side had no answer to the vim, vigour and sheer persistence of the Diavolo.

Just over a year ago, in the same competition, against the same opponents, the Rossoneri lost their nerve in a 3-2 loss at San Siro. That side, which included Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alessandro Nesta, Thiago Silva and Clarence Seedorf, couldn’t produce the goods when it mattered. But 12 months on, with two forwards young enough to be sporting Mohicans, Milan 2.0 did what the earlier vintage couldn’t.

It wasn’t the most exciting of games – in fact the first half was nigh on dull – but the plan was laid out, and executed, to perfection. As Muntari said after the match: “We were very disciplined and managed to close every angle down so they couldn’t penetrate us. The best player for us tonight was Coach Allegri.”

The sight of Stephan El Shaarawy and Kevin-Prince Boateng tracking back, Montolivo and Ambrosini doing a job on Lionel Messi, Pazzini bullying Puyol and Gerard Pique – for all fans of calcio it was a genuine ‘told you so’ moment. The whole XI attacked and defended with intelligence – allowing the visitors just two shots on target all evening.

Of course, teams have beaten Barcelona in Europe before – Celtic in the group stages, Chelsea in last season’s semi-final. But not like this. The Scottish champions relied on pure luck and the genius of Fraser Forster. Roberto Di Matteo’s men had a missed Messi penalty to thank. Milan though, never looked like losing. The continent’s top-scorers didn’t even threaten to beat Christian Abbiati. The performance from the hosts was measured, astute and absolute right.

There’s still a second-leg to be played. And the Camp Nou is a fortress. But with a 2-0 lead and the confidence that comes with this win, the question is – how far can this young Milan team go?

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Have your say...
Park the Plane!

I am sure you know of at least a handful of teams that met Barca in the recent years that are more the capable of executing a plan perfectly. If it's not hard to identify the proper tactics, then please tell us where is the problem that only so few teams have managed to achieve this feat?
And if you have time, focus on some aspects of that easily identifiable tactics also please.

on the 23rd February, 2013 at 5:52pm
@Park the Plane: Beating Barca in the group stages is not the same as beating them in the knockouts. Specially when the group is already decided and the match is basically meaningless. Celtic beat them this year too, but I'm pretty sure neither they or Rubin could pull off the same result in the knockout rounds.
on the 23rd February, 2013 at 1:23pm
@maverick Rubin Kazan beat them 2-0 AWAY at the Camp Nou in the 09/10 CL group stages as well. It's not hard to identify the correct tactics to beat them; the hard part is executing perfectly. The players aren't very important apart from their commitment to the team and determination...
on the 23rd February, 2013 at 6:26am
Milan was incredible..everyone has can tell Milan was good, bad, boring..or lets say Inter played better a few years ago.. But the fact is Milan been perfect and I am proud to be a Milan fan.. And if someone what to remember history (as Inter won in 2010, or Juve even earlier, or as cold "best team in the world" Barcelona), just would like to remind you that ANY club in Europe won more then MILAN internationally..and finally of course FORZA MIALN! I am proud of you!
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 11:18pm
can anyone help me please! I was at the match at the san siro but I would like to watch the match again, can anyone suggest how I can do this please.

Being in the stadium is so different to watching it on television, everything goes so fast with all the emotions so I never got to relax and take it all in haha.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 6:52pm
@mikkel, sour grapes? The only thing sour is becoming a selling club, a true sign your team is in a sharp decline.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 6:48pm
@ Dominator... MOST SUCCESSFULL CLUB EVER.. you're now dismissed!
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 5:08pm
@DOMINATOR.... Grow up kid and stop talking such crap. everyone is entitled to an opinion of course, but your just talking pure nonsence. regardless of who anyone supports the fact of the matter is that Milan played a fantastic match against the so called "Best in the World" And as for attracting star players??? get real will ya!!
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 4:38pm
Pity to see this childish bickering about how much credit goes to who that beat Barca. The fact is that they were, are and will be for some time, the team to beat. Hats down to whoever succeeds, regardless of the tactics.
Albeit for me it was not an entertaining game to watch beside the result and some bright moments, but it was effective and Milan made everything they had at their disposal to work for them. You don't need superstars if everyone is pulling the same direction - it's a team sport.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 4:37pm
lol i can't believe how excited milan fans are to finaly win a chmpions league game after so long. Milan is boring. nobody likes them anymore, whether milan fans accept it or not, i guarantee you if milan won the CL this year, next year they still wouldn't be able to attract any good players, any investors, nothing. The club is a joke now. Has beens. Milan WERE a good club. Not any more. Milan today are like Ajax.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 1:45pm
Really wish fans of other clubs would pay credit when its due. Congratulations to Milan on a fantastic result - from a Juve fan.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 1:15pm
To BOOS. Sour grapes.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 8:54am
@Rack City
You say "Milan parked the bus until Zapata handballed it and the whole Barca defense stopped and Boateng was left alone to score easily"???

Did you even watch the game?

The ball quite clearly hit his HEAD not his HAND and Barca should of played to the whistle.
Also the second goal was every bit as good as what anybody else could do.
Tactics (parking the bus) are the main element of football, thats why a managers head is first on the chopping block when things go wrong.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 8:44am
To Inter fans that keep bringing up the 3-1 in 2010: It was a great victory, but Inter had superstars like Eto'o, Sneijder, Milito, Zanetti etc plus Jose Mourinho as coach. Milan did it with a team of mainly unknowns and Max Allegri.
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 4:16am

Celtic did 17 attempts 59%poss, juve did 9 attempts 51% poss.
Barca did 6 attempts 66% poss, milan did 8 attempts 34% poss.

Clearly your comment just ignorance and dumb! Juve did best with 3goals with 51% poss, and milan did good with 2goals with 36% poss (AT HOME).

And note Barca played suck yesterday while Celtic bombarded juve with attack.

Anyway you r ignorance !
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 4:05am
What a night for Milan & the whole Italian football. Even though I am not a Milan fan, I was cheering them until the end of the game. Superb tactical approach. It was a great performance by this young team. Great for Serie A. Forza Milan, you are just 90 minutes away for accomplishing your effort at San Siro. The whole Italy(even the Interisti) & followers of Serie A are right behind you.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 11:54pm
I'm grateful to Alex Mott for observing that this victory over Barcelona was different than those of Celtic and Chelsea, the former loss being one of relatively low consequence, the latter being a matter of dominating the game and failing to deliver. This Milan victory was altogether different as Barca looked as sterile as I've ever seen them look. That's why I give Milan quite a good chance at the Camp Nou. Barca simply don't change their style of play under any circumstances. Advantage Milan
on the 21st February, 2013 at 10:29pm
Well done inter and lazio. Hope inter hammer spurs. Well done napoli, 5-0 on agg. You are a disgrace to italian football. Hang your heads in shame. Mazzari is pathetic, after losing 3-0 in first leg you d have expected some kind of response yet again no effort or interest. Disgraceful.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 10:16pm
"Of course, teams have beaten Barcelona in Europe before – Celtic in the group stages, Chelsea in last season’s semi-final. But not like this."

........Inter 3-1 in 2010 and could easily have been 4 or 5-1. How does a Serie A fan not include this? That's just sad. But go ahead, tell me all about how Milan did something really special.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 10:13pm
Milan executed the perfect tactical gameplan to beat Barca. Montolivo MotM for me: dominated the middle of the park against the best midfield in the world, and that too without first choice midfielders De Jong and Nocerino.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 9:36pm
barcelona have only gone 1 game in their last 14 without conceding,that should tell you everything right there
on the 21st February, 2013 at 9:10pm
Let me restore order right away. Milan are the ultimate come back against. The team has it in their DNA to get tired at half time. Owned by Liverpool. Almost lost it all to arsenal. Milan just got lucky. Barca were relaxing. Rest assured tho Milan fans, come three weeks, ull b out. Even if you get through, you'll face bayern or Man U. That is another beating.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 9:01pm
I am a Juventus supporter, but I thought Milan were incredible last night. Just like our win at Celtic Park, it was a perfect game plan, executed perfectly. Italian's are still, and always will be, the master's of tactical football. Barcelona were lost, they just don't have a plan B and ended the game with Pique as centre-forward, that tell's you everything you need to know about how desperate they were. They can certainly finish the job in Camp Nou. One goal may be enough. FORZA ITALIA!!!
on the 21st February, 2013 at 6:30pm
Lets keep it real. Milan parked the bus until Zapata handballed it and the whole Barca defense stoped and Boateng was left alone to score easily. After that Milan got a counter attack goal. Barca played so bad and it wasn't that Milan played a good game. More like Barca and Messi played horrible. I hope we don't see another repeat of last Year when Chelsea parked the bus all the way to the title.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 6:30pm

No the worst game in CL was the one when you tried 3 times to enter the opponents field during 90 minutes and won with 0-3. That my biased friend was the most boring game. Milan played entertaining football big parts of the game yesterday. Stop the hating and focus in getting a mediocre striker to your own team at least.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 5:23pm

How was milan lucky!?!?! They had 2 shots at goal. We scored twice. They didnt even have a close attempt. We could have scored 3-0 also at the end. SES could have done better when he countered. Please save the embarrassing posts of your to another blog. Milan was ANYTHING but lucky yesterday. They just played smarter then barca and hence deserved result. Pathetic to call it a handball. No way in hell Zapata could have reacted on that ball ricochet to hes arm. Say adios to CL Inter.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 5:20pm
I think Allegri has a selection headache this weekend. It's hard to see anyone from last night not deserving a place in the starting line up against Inter. But what to do about Niang and Balo? Clearly Balo will be back in but it might be time to stick with Boateng ahead of Niang? It's a selection headache I didn't think we'd have at the beginning of the season!
on the 21st February, 2013 at 5:17pm

You do realize that Barca had 2 shots at goal for 90 mins? We broke their game in def midfield. Not in our penalty zone. Pathetic attempt from you side accusing barca from playing bad when it was actually ac milan who played great. Barca are NEVER bad. Please stop referring Juve win against Celtic similar to Milans. We won vs the best team on the planet. You win (still kudos for that) against an below average team in CL, probably the worst team thats left. Jealousy Galore.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 5:16pm
@ André I know the Barcelona player was offside but Mexes's questionable positioning meant that he nearly gave away a penalty accidental handball or not. He is a liability. He's been caught out a few times in recent games. He commits himself to tackles when should hold off. Zapata, apart from one or two moments, was quite solid last night. I'm gald to see he's getting a run of games.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 5:14pm
Zapata handball: Anyone who has ever played football knows that it was not intentional. Zapata actually raised his arms to not get the ball onto his hands. When it came off his head, which it did, it then touched his arm. Who right in his mind can claim that this is exactly what Zapata wanted to do? All these experts claim that it should have been called a handball have probably never played football before and the closest they got to a football was when someone shot it to their heads.
on the 21st February, 2013 at 5:12pm

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