Barca's Total Football triumphs over Milan

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona secured a tremendous 4-0 win against AC Milan in the return leg of the last 16 of the Champions League. The aggregate 4-2 result granted the Catalans qualification for the quarterfinals of the biggest competition in European football. Lionel Messi (double), David Villa and Jordi Alba scored the goals for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 67 percent of possession, created 13 goal-scoring chances and attempted 11 shots, seven of them on target.

- Delaney: An epic Barca comeback to remember
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- Villa: Poor form forgotten after Milan win

As many predicted, the Rossoneri approached the match with the same ultradefensive attitude that gave them the victory at the San Siro. Unfortunately for them, though, this time Barcelona were able to up the tempo thanks to a more decisive mentality and an increased desire to make things happen from the very start of the game, as the brilliant early goal from an ultracommitted Lionel Messi proved after five minutes.

With the ball still flying within the lines and the whole team pressing and defending as a unit when dispossessed, the Catalans seemed to return to the excellent form of earlier in the season that enabled them to build the current 13-point lead over Real Madrid in La Liga: intense but focused; aggressive but coolheaded; always playing to their strengths.

With the vociferous Camp Nou crowd right behind them, it truly felt that it was only a matter of time until the fired-up Blaugranas found the net again. In a moment that changed the game, it was the genius Messi who stepped up to take responsibility once more, allowing his team to reach halftime having already leveled the tie.

Not much changed after the break, with the hosts continuing to push for victory and Milan trying to contain them in whatever way possible. It wasn't too long before Barcelona finally saw all their ambitious effort rewarded when David Villa placed the ball past Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati with a shot that made the Camp Nou erupt with joy. It was a moment that will live long in the memory of Cules.

With 35 minutes still to be played, Rossoneri coach Max Allegri suddenly realised that, in football, teams actually have to try to score some goals, and introduced attacking-minded players such as former Real Madrid dribbler Robinho, Sulley Muntari and La Masia graduate Bojan Krkic, but after a combined 145 minutes of defending, it was far too late for the Italians.

Jordi Alba bagged a late goal for the superb Barcelona but the party had already started by then. The legendary comeback that Xavi so sternly demanded after the disappointing defeat in the away leg was finally here. The Catalans managed to return to a level that had made them successful in the first place and were able to overcome a critical situation.

By the way: If you were one of those who doubted this team and trashed it before the ball actually started rolling, there is still time to jump back on the bandwagon.

The road to Wembley is Blaugrana!

Player Ratings (0-10; 10=best)

Victor Valdes (7) - Kept his first clean sheet in a couple of months in his 100th Champions League appearance. Dealt with every loose ball within his area confidently.

Dani Alves (8) - Played in a more advance position, technically as an all-out winger from the initial whistle. Tireless, committed, encouraged others, gave his all. Constantly bombarding down the right flank.

Gerard Pique (7) - Completely focused throughout, ensured the Blaugrana three-man back line remained solid and compact. A Cule since birth; everyone could easily tell how much this game meant to him.

Javier Mascherano (8) - Despite the clumsy header which granted Milan's Niang their best chance of the game, the relentless Argentinean was one of the best Blaugrana players. His many well-timed tackles often meant his team recovered possession in the rival's final third, giving Milan very little chance to build meaningful counterattacks.

Jordi Alba (8) - Much more defensively disciplined than usual, mostly prioritising his marking duties over joining attack. Having said that, he was also highly influential going forward, to the point that he even added his name to the score sheet in the dying minutes.

Sergio Busquets (8) - The engine that kept the Barcelona machine ticking. His quick passes ensured the ball kept flowing at a blistering pace across the midfield. Recovered 13 balls and was the only Blaugrana to not lose any.

Xavi Hernandez (9) - Looked his best despite having just returned from injury, leading the team with the same privileged vision but much more urgency than usual. Assisted Messi for his first, then Villa for the team's third. A tremendous, vintage performance: 91 completed passes.

Andres Iniesta (9) - Delighted Cules with his innate ability to make the impossible seem simple. His class allowed him to rotate with ease, link up with virtually everyone around him and, to put it simply, make the Rossoneri defenders chase shadows for most of the game.

David Villa (8) - His inclusion as a deeper striker allowed Messi more room to develop his game but also meant he was constantly surrounded by many no-nonsense defenders. Unsurprisingly though, he managed to score the crucial goal when given an inch of space.

Lionel Messi (10) - Made the difference when the team needed it the most, showing any doubters why those four Ballon d'Ors have his name engraved on them. Scored the first two goals with a couple of powerful yet accurate strikes. Thirty-three goals in his past 32 Champions League appearances. The one and only.

Pedro Rodriguez (6) - Contributed with his generous effort when pressing but failed to make any remarkable impact from an attacking perspective.

Substitutes: Carles Puyol (6), Alexis Sanchez (6)

Have your say

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I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.

For more news and opinion notes on Barcelona, follow Francesc Tomas at @Barcablog_com and Facebook - 33,000 Cules have already joined.

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