Barca battering serves as a lesson for Milan

Posted by Sumeet Paul

In a one-sided mauling on Tuesday night, the Champions League run came to an end for AC Milan as they fell to a 4-0 defeat to Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

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With a dominant Barcelona making history by overcoming a two-goal deficit heading into the second leg, the only hope is that lessons will be learned and the Rossoneri will continue to move forward.

It was clear from the outset that the real Barcelona were prepared for a glorious European night, with their ruthless pressing strategy forcing Milan to remain within the confines of their own half for much of the first 45 minutes.

It could have been so very different had Mbaye Niang taken his big chance shortly before Lionel Messi scored his second goal of the night. A vital away goal just before halftime and the possibility of advancing would have been a realistic ambition.

However, as Niang's shot skimmed the post and drifted to safety, it almost felt as though Milan's chances had drifted with it too. Much was made of the fact Messi had failed to produce against Italian sides in Europe, but he chose the perfect stage to finally deliver.

Massimiliano Allegri was lauded following his tactical master-class at San Siro, but both he and the players failed in attempting a repeat performance.

Sloppy in possession, albeit mostly as a result of being put under intense pressure deep in their own half, Milan were unable to get a foothold in the game. There were signs that an away goal would be possible, yet having been outplayed for the majority of the game, hopes of advancing ebbed as the clock ticked down.

In what has been a hallmark of Barcelona's play in their recent history, their pressing and success in winning back possession deep in Milan's territory was key to their victory. In the first meeting, Milan were able to build in midfield and release their front three. Yet this time round, they were forced on numerous occasions to make passes that gifted possession back to the Spaniards.

While the disappointment will undoubtedly be the overriding emotion, it is important to remember where this Milan side was and the direction in which it is now heading.

Few would have predicted even reaching the knock-out stages of the competition back in the early months of the season, let alone a home win against Barcelona. In addition, the experience of playing in such an intense and pressurized atmosphere is one that many with this Milan team must learn from.

The Rossoneri have made great progress throughout the season and their reaction will now be vital, not only for the confidence going forward for the rest of this campaign, but in being able to qualify for the Champions League next season.

"Tonight, Barcelona were extraordinary, especially in the first 30 minutes. This team needs to grow and had five players who were in their first Champions League campaign. It will be a useful experience," Allegri told reporters after the game.

Based on their second-leg performance, Barcelona deserved to progress at the expense of Milan. Yes, it is bitterly disappointing, but both Allegri and the squad have no time to feel sorry for themselves as it is essential they maintain their domestic momentum and bounce back against Palermo on Sunday.

What is your reaction to the defeat? Are there any positives you can take from the game?

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