Dismissed by most pundits before the game as mere cannon fodder for on-fire Barcelona, AC Milan on Wednesday produced the kind of team performance that recalled the famous victories of Chelsea last season and of Inter Milan in 2010 to defeat the Blaugrana 2-0 in the first-leg of its UEFA Champions League Round of 16 series. After a cagey and scoreless first-half, Ghanaian internationals Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari stunned Barca with goals in the 57th and 81st minutes, respectively.
“Soccer is beautiful as you never know what can happen, but not even the most optimistic fan would have imagined this,” said Milan vice president Adriano Galliani, who dedicated the victory to his boss, club president Silvio Berlusconi. Galliani even reserved special praise for coach Massimiliano Allegri, whom the club has reportedly been trying to replace: “We did very well and I have to say that, in my opinion, our coach was very, very good. We played a perfect match – it was a great game, played with great determination and character.”
Striker Giampaolo Pazzini hailed the team’s selflessness: “On nights like tonight, the individual aspect goes to the background. I think you could see that we were a team this evening.”
However, despite the euphoria of a near-perfect performance, it’s still only halftime, as goalscorer Muntari pointed out after the game: “It is a good lead, but the Camp Nou is not easy,” the Ghana international said. “You can have a 5-0 lead but it is not safe as Barcelona have amazing players.” The second-leg of the series will be in Barcelona on March 12.