LIONEL Messi put in another astonishing display to lead Barcelona to the quarter final of the Champions League following a dominant display against AC Milan at the Nou Camp.
Scorers: Barcelona: Messi (5, 40), Villa (55), Alba (90)
Two goals down from the first leg, Messi was on target after just five minutes and although Milan keeper Christian Abbiati was at his best to repel the home side, he could do little to stop Messi doubling Barca’s lead five minutes before the break.
David Villa – preferred by Jordi Roura to Cesc Fabregas – scored a vital third before Jordi Alba’s injury time strike settled the tie.
Milan struggled to deal with the movement of an inspired Barcelona and failed to create enough chances, with Victor Valdes rarely tested in the home goal.
It took just five minutes for Barcelona to reduce the deficit and take the lead on the night.
Xavi’s intricate pass found Messi, whose unstoppable curling effort into the top corner gave Abbiati no chance. It was Messi’s 52nd goal of the season and he almost created one for Andres Iniesta seconds later before Philippe Mexes intercepted.
The home side were in full flow and, after 13 minutes, Abbiati was forced into making a fantastic save to tip Iniesta’s effort on to the bar before Messi somehow shot wide following up. The stopper had to be in top form four minutes later to acrobatically tip Xavi’s stinging effort around the post.
Even at that stage it was a case of when, not if, they were to draw level on aggregate and the home side thought they should have had a penalty when Massimo Ambrosini collided with Pedro inside the box. However, the visitors survived and slowly began to deal with the onslaught of the home side, while creating chances of their own.
The best fell to lone striker M’Baye Niang, who raced clear after breaking the Barca offside trap but his effort hit the post. Milan were made to pay just seconds later and again it was Messi who was the scorer.
Ambrosini lost out to Iniesta who fed Messi, who looked to be in an offside position when the ball was played. The flag stayed down and the Argentine cut inside and fired past a helpless Abbiati with his lethal left foot.
Pedro picked up a booking before the end of the half for a foul on Ignazio Abate, meaning he would miss the quarter-final first leg should they progress, while Mathieu Flamini was also facing a suspension for a challenge on Pedro. Barca began the second period much like the first and after 55 minutes Xavi’s pinpoint pass eluded a sliding Cristian Zapata to find Villa, whose left-foot finish gave the Milan stopper no chance.
In a bid to increase their attacking options, Massimiliano Allegri brought on Robinho and Sulley Muntari for Niang and Ambrosini respectively.
With 15 minutes left goalscorer Villa was replaced by Alexis Sanchez, with Carlos Puyol coming on for Javier Mascherano shortly afterwards.
The home side were thankful for Alba’s intervention after 81 minutes to deny Robinho a simple chance from close range.
The win was sealed in the dying minutes of the game when Alba gathered the strength to burst down the left to fire past Abbiati in what was another memorable Barca performance at the Nou Camp.