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Messi and Co. silence doubters
by Paul Kennedy, March 12th, 2013 11:46PM
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TAGS:  barcelona, spain, uefa champions league


[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Barcelona's troubles in the last month have been enough to create a host of doubters, but it took only 90 minutes to silence them with an historic performance on Tuesday at the Camp Nou. Lionel Messi scored two goals in the first half, and Barca rolled to a 4-0 win over AC Milan to become the first team in the UEFA Champions League to ever overcome a two-goal first-leg deficit without the benefit of an away goal.

"We will remember this for years to come," Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta told Spanish television afterward.

The Barca players reacted as if they had won the Champions League, but the victory still left them with five games to play if they want to hoist Europe's top trophy for a fifth time.

It's been a difficult period of Barca, whose first-year head coach Tito Vilanova is battling throat cancer and had to leave the team for treatment in New York.

In his absence, assistant Jordi Roura is coaching Barca, which lost twice to archrival Real Madrid. The first loss knocked Barca out of the Copa del Rey and the second came in La Liga, where Barca has lost only two of 27 games and still leads second-place Real Madrid by 14 points with 11 games to play.

But it was the prospect of being knocked out of the Champions League by AC Milan in the round of 16 that hung over Barca's head following a 2-0 loss in Milan.

"It's obvious that we need to give a bit more," Messi said last week. "We know what the problems were in the defeats, it's something we have talked about in the locker room and it has to stay there. We have been losing recently and we know what we have to do to change."

Barcelona came out and made Milan look, courtesy of Messi, what it is: just an ordinary team, not the world power like it was when it beat Barca, 4-0, in the 1994 Champions League final.

In the fifth minute, Messi picked up the ball in a crowd of five Milan players and after one touch lifted a shot past Christian Abbiati to reduce Milan's edge to one goal.

Barcelona, which went into the game with only one shutout in its last 14 games at home, then got a scare when French teenager M'Baye Niang hit the post, but Messi's second goal just before halftime wiped out Milan's advantage.

David Villa
put Barca ahead 3-0 in the 56th minute after he burned French-born Guinean international Kevin Constant and broke in alone from the right side to beat Abbiati. Milan created some anxious moments for Barca in the last 10 minutes, but Jordi Alba came up from his position at left back and added a fourth goal in the dying moments to end the suspense.

"Messi's two goals put us in a strong position," added Zubizarreta. "Villa's was very important, and Alba gave everyone exactly what they wanted with the fourth."

Barcelona-AC Milan Highlights:

SCHALKE 04-GALATASARAY. Galatasaray reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2001 after beat Schalke 04, 3-2, in Gelsenkirchen to win 4-3 on aggregate.

Barcelona and Galatasaray join Real Madrid, Paris St. Germain, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund in Friday's draw for the last eight. The other two quarterfinalists will be the winners of the Bayern Munich-Arsenal and Malaga-Porto series.

Schalke 04-Galatasaray Highlights:

  1. feliks fuksman
    commented on: March 13, 2013 at 6:33 a.m.
    Wonderful performance by inspired (Messi) Barcelona that we haven't seen in a while! Looking forward to the next games...
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: March 13, 2013 at 10:07 a.m.
    Paul, first of all, on Messi's first goal, he didn't "lift the ball", he crushed it, and second, Villa didn't "burn" Constant, the pass just evaded Constant and Villa was left alone to curl in a left footed shot. Let's give the real credit where it belongs. As for questioning Barca's recent form; one should not isolate a tough period after the squad was so impeccable for for always expect top form is not realistic. On the day, Barca delivered with a stunning performance to get the result.

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