AC Milan claimed a superb 2-0 victory over Barcelona last night in the first leg of the Champions League knockout stages.
The result surprised a lot of people as Barcelona are considered the best team in the competition by many.
The whole of the AC Milan team were resolute last night. From back to front the Rossoneri hardly allowed the Barcelona players a second to breath, never mind score a goal.
Every single member of the team worked their socks off to prevent Barca getting the upper hand.
At times Milan had eleven men behind the ball to limit the space that Barcelona had to play in.
It’s a tactic now commonly used against Barcelona, but I think only Chelsea in last year’s Champions League have ever used it to such good effect.
We all know that Barcelona are likely to have the majority of possession during a game, because that is their style of play and it’s become a very en vogue style. Their possession football has also proved successful in recent years.
However, just like against Chelsea last season the Catalan giants once again didn’t have a plan B. Barcelona never changes their style of play, not matter what the result is. They would rather lose playing their way than win another.
On one hand it is quite an inflexible idea that a team will only play its football one way. Although you have to respect the fact that the team and club believe in the philosophy and they stand by those beliefs. After all those beliefs have took the Catalans to numerous pieces of silverware in recent history.
Even the best team in the world can have an off-day and this was one of those nights for the Catalans. They were frustrated by a fantastic team display, by a team that looked determined to take something back to the Nou Camp for the second leg.
AC Milan also got that bit of luck teams often need to defeat a team like Barcelona. Centre-back Cristian Zapata definitely handled the ball in the build-up to Milan’s first goal from Kevin Prince-Boateng.
However, Scottish referee Kevin Thomson didn’t give the hand ball, despite half of the Barcelona team remonstrating with him. It this sort of luck you need to get past the Barcelona’s of this world.
Chelsea enjoyed a major slice of luck in last season’s clash with the Spanish side and they went on to win the Champions League trophy.
I have to say that I was really impressed by young AC Milan attacker Stephan el Shaarawy. I have seen him play on a couple of occasions this season and only seen glimpses of what he can do.
Last night though it wasn’t just his attacking play that impressed me it was his defensive work. The 20 year-old tracked back by like a seasoned pro, limiting the space that Barcelona had to work in.
He epitomised the performance of AC Milan. Worked hard and didn’t give the Barcelona players chance to play their own game. He might have done better with his chance in the first half, but I think he can be forgiven considering he set up the second goal.
The youngster looks to have a bright future in the game and seems to have the right attitude to be a truly great player.
AC Milan were at their best in last night’s clash and it is difficult to see the Rossoneri producing another display of that intensity in the second leg at the Nou Camp. However, they will have to produce a similar sort of performance to progress.
Barcelona are unbeaten in 19 matches at the Nou Camp and tend to score lorry loads of goals on their home turf. It will be difficult for Milan, but Inter and Chelsea have proved in previous seasons that Barcelona can be defeated with closing down and hard work.
After that victory AC Milan deserve to go through to the quarter-finals. As we all know Barcelona are capable of producing great performances and they are going to need one in the Nou Camp to make it through to the next round.
In the other Champions League game of the night German side Schalke claimed a very good 1-1 draw with Galatasaray in Istanbul. The German side have been in crisis in the last few months, changing coaches and losing star player Lewis Holtby to Tottenham.
However, they went to Turkey and claimed what could prove to be a vital away goal. Galatasaray are dangerous though with the likes of new signings Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba in their team.
The second leg at the Veltins Arena will be a fascinating one, but whoever gets through will know that they face a difficult task in the quarter-finals with some of Europe’s big boys determined to make a mark on this competition this season.
Can AC Milan protect their two-goal lead at the Nou Camp?
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