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Champions League Quarterfinals • Milan 0, Barcelona 0: Keeping the Blaugrana at Bay

No one likes a 0-0 draw. Many have argued that every game must go to added extra time and/or penalties to decide a match. But barring goals that would have been like gold for Milan, this was a great result. We kept them from getting any away goals, a clean sheet, and now Tuesday becomes more like a final, except that if we get a goal, it is an away goal. Playing like this against the best team in the world? I’ll take it.

"Let's Eat Them" 


It’s a little bit sad when the fans choreography is more exciting than the game itself. But it also says that this team is supported not only by their own abilities and talents, but by the 76,000 plus fans at the San Siro. Well, Barcelona brought about 3,000 of their own, but they were drowned out by the voices and whistles of the Milan faithful. Of course, there always has to be a few that spoil it for the others, and some idiot with a laser light was shining it on the faces of the Barcelona players taking free kicks in the first half. Here’s hoping that person got a stadium ban for that, because Milan will likely get a fine for it. But still, amazing choreography from the Curva Sud. Brilliant, creative, and fun, a great backdrop for a great Milan performance.

If you’ve read this far, then hopefully you realize that this was actually quite the epic battle. In fact, it says so much more about both teams that neither of them conceded in 90 minutes. Milan came out attacking with efforts from Boateng in the first 2 minutes. A minute later, Robinho got a shot off on the volley, but skied it. It would have been difficult to make even in full fitness. In the 20th, Ibra had a great chance, but Valdes read it perfectly and easily saved it. Valdes was perfect in positioning on the night, and credit goes to the Barcelona defense for keeping his work to a minimum.

Ibra frustrated? Yes, but so was that Golden Ball winner...

In the 30th, Boateng had a shot that was deflected high that might have been a handball, but they never quite showed it on my replay. In the 38th minute, Seedorf had a shot that probably unintentionally took a bounce on the ground, so was easily saved by Valdes. Then again in the 41st, he had a shot deflected. In the second half, Ibra took a shot in the 69th that went straight to Valdes again, it’s like he was a ball magnet. So Milan was held to only 6 shots, 3 of which were on target. Whereas Barcelona took 18 shots, but also had only 3 on target. Do you think we frustrated them, or what?

Captain Ambrosini: frustrating opponents for Milan in 460 matches.

Barcelona’s shots came in the form of a number of free kicks as well as some great shots that were played through in usual fantastic Barca style. In the 6th minute, Messi actually slipped on his free kick. Sometimes that San Siro Pitch of Death™ comes in handy. In the 18th, Messi actually scored a goal, but it was called offside, and rightly so. Between Messi, Xavi, and Sanchez, Abbiati and our defense were definitely kept busy. But surprisingly, Milan were up to the challenge.

Was Antonini bitten by a radioactive spider? Let's hope so. Superhero performance

My hands down Man of the Match (also chosen by UEFA & AC Milan) was Luca Antonini. If you did not watch the match, you are probably checking to see if you read that correctly. But if you saw the match, you are nodding in agreement, and perhaps fist pumping and shouting his name. The game of his life. It started in the 8th minute with a shot from Messi that Abbiati bobbled, and with Dani Alves swooping in to get the goal, Antonini made a great clearance. But the 36th is where he stopped hearts worldwide. Sanchez slipped through and was virtually guaranteed a goal, when our oft-blundering left back comes to the other side of goal and completely and cleanly shuts down Sanchez. Phenomenal save. And so it continued, even after Nesta was subbed off and the backline re-shuffled. Even in the dying minutes of regulation, he was involved in at least 2 key stops on Messi, “the greatest player in the world.”

But our whole back line was solid, despite desperately missing Silva and Abate. Barcelona almost seemed baffled, I think they expected to take advantage of our weakened back line. Thankfully, Tuesday, we’ll have Abate and van Bommel to shore up the back a bit.

A big game's got to have cards

It wouldn’t be an epic match without cards and some controversy. Barcelona’s sole yellow card recipient was Keita, he did more than enough to earn his card throughout the match but was awarded it in the 61st. On the other hand, three of Milan’s experienced (read: also tired) players earned yellows, Seedorf in the 23rd for a challenge on Xavi, Nesta undeservingly in the 57th for a tackle on Messi, and Ambrosini in the 70th, for a challenge on Xavi. But the big controversy was in the 16th, when Sanchez cunningly allowed himself to be taken down by Abbiati in the box, but was not awarded the penalty. I guess sometimes crime doesn’t pay. Or Milan got really lucky. Or maybe both.

It's okay, Messi, sometimes old people frustrate me, too.

I mentioned briefly The Pitch of Death™ and it is just becoming more and more obvious that it is a problem. But at least it is an equal opportunity problem in each individual match. Unfortunately for Milan, we play half of our matches on it all season, and it is very likely contributing to our ever expanding infirmary. Speaking of injuries, rumors as of this writing are that The Miracle of the Substitutions, brought to you by Allegri, in which he used all 3 subs and very early for him, was actually inspired primarily by injury. The first sub, in the 52nd, saw Robinho leave the pitch for El Shaarawy, the former having taken a knock. The substitution of Urby for Boateng may have been tactical, but more likely that Boateng was just coming back from injury and lacked the legs for 90 minutes. The last sub was the most disconcerting, Nesta off for Mesbah, because this was Nesta’s first game back, and once again, he seemed to have picked up another knock.

Maldini: "Vieri, when our clothing company goes global, I'm buying this club."


Still, a brilliant effort, showing the naysayers that even riddled with injuries, we can keep Barcelona off the scoreboard, even if they had 65% possession and three times the shots. Whether or not we can pull off the win in Barcelona on Tuesday remains to be seen. But for tonight, everyone stepped up to keep the Blaugrana at bay, and even the most unlikely was the hero on the night. Maybe 0-0 doesn’t look very exciting on paper, but it was well worth the watch, and well worth the efforts of the Milan fans in the stadium as well as around the world.

Our next match is Catania vs. Milan
Saturday, March 31st • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)

This post inspired by the music of STP