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Champions League: Milan 2 Barcelona 0

AC Milan upset Barcelona 2-0 in the opening leg of their Champions League round-of-16 clash at San Siro on Wednesday.

AC Milan upset Barcelona 2-0 in the opening leg of their Champions League round-of-16 clash at San Siro on Wednesday.

Kevin-Prince Boateng opened the scoring in controversial circumstances on 57 minutes after an apparent handball by Cristian Zapata in the build-up, and Sulley Muntari finished off a counterattack for the second goal with nine minutes to go.

Much like last season’s 0-0 quarter-final first-leg meeting between the two sides, Barca controlled possession, but they were unable to convert their dominance into goals in the face of a strong defensive effort from Milan.

In the absence of the cup-tied striker Mario Balotelli, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri called on Giampaolo Pazzini to partner Stephan El Shaarawy up front, while Xavi Hernandez passed a late fitness test to start in midfield for the visitors.

Early on, Philippe Mexes was forced to head away a Jordi Alba cross dangerously close to the far post.

The first real opening came when Pazzini’s flick put El Shaarawy in the clear, but a poor first touch allowed Carles Puyol to remove the danger.

As expected, Milan were put under significant pressure by the short passing football of Barcelona, but, to their credit, Allegri’s men were able to stifle the visitors, and forced them to bide their time with patient passes outside the area.

Mexes was shown yellow card for tripping Lionel Messi in the 25th minute, but the first half passed largely with little incident as Barca threatened rarely, while Milan’s occasional forays forward were snuffed out almost as quickly as they began.

The second half progressed in much the same vein as the first with Barca on top, but just before the hour mark Milan took the lead out of nowhere.

Kevin Constant laid off a free-kick to Riccardo Montolivo, whose shot appeared to cannon off the hand of Zapata.

There was no intervention from the referee and Barca were stunned as Boateng steadied himself to finish from the edge of the box.

Animated protests from the visitors only led to a booking for Gerard Pique, and Barca’s frustration continued in front of goal, with Andres Iniesta’s fizzing drive from distance about the best they could muster in front of goal.

With 81 minutes on the clock, Milan’s optimism turned to jubilation, when a sweeping move on the break saw M’Baye Niang release El Shaarawy into the area, who in turn teed up Muntari for a precise finish from inside the box.

The San Siro was rocking with pride and disbelief, and Barca could not find a way back into the match in the time remaining, setting up an enticing second leg at Camp Nou on March 12.

Wed 20 February, 2013
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