The Champions League clash between AC Milan and Barcelona is a glamour tie, two huge super-powers of Europe battling it out in two of the worlds most renowned stadia. The fans at the San Siro last night were fantastic, and helped propel their team to a fantastic 2-0 first leg victory against the best club team in the world. There was also two names that fans of the Premier League will recognise that had a huge impact on the result.
By Anthony Horan – @AntonH79
Last night, whilst witnessing the success of a rather impressive Milan team, I was drawn to days gone by for the two Rossoneri goalscorers. Both Kevin Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari, before they joined Italian football, plied their trade in the English league with Portsmouth; Prince Boateng coming straight from Portsmouth in 2011, Muntari taking a slightly more indirect route via Inter Milan and Sunderland on loan.
The fortunes of Pompey are well documented, and the club face a daily fight to keep themselves operational. Their fortunes could not be more stark against those of its former charges in the shape of Prince Boateng and Muntari, particularly on a freezing February night in northern Italy.
Milan, thanks to Prince Boateng and Muntari, successfully penetrated the Barcelona defence on two occasions in contrast to a night of mild profligacy in front of goal for the Catalan giants. Messi, Iniesta, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez all tried in vain to make some headway but Milan stood resolute, at one point forcing Iniesta to attempt a rare strike from outside the box. The lesser spotted long-range Barcelona strike….quite a sight.
Whilst the fortunes of Barcelona and their skilful play are well documented, Milan have been quietly going about their business in the Champions League this season. They finished in second place behind Malaga in the group stages and have looked, on occasion, out of sorts in this season’s elite competition. Such language, however, would not fit well with their performance last night. They came out of the blocks from the very first whistle and, although Barcelona dominated the game in terms of possession, it was not the sort of domination that has so often seen them eventually grind down teams in the past.
Milan never gave Barcelona a minute’s peace (to use some distinctly Scottish terminology) until the dying embers of the game when Milan resorted to hoofing the ball Peter Kay style up the pitch. ‘Have it’ is a cry that would have been fully justified at this particular juncture. Puyol and Pique would then try to start another Barca foray towards the Milan goal, but each attempt ultimately proved fruitless. It was Milan’s night and the fans were in raptures as the whistle heralded the end of a pulsating encounter.
What now for this tie? Well, Barcelona are likely still the favourites in most people’s eyes. They will come out of the blocks at the Camp Nou and an early goal will send Rossoneri hearts fluttering with nerves. But Milan are astute at defending (aren’t most Italian teams?) when they really need to be. And this is one such occasion. One thing we can be guaranteed however is a mammoth contest in the second leg. And you never know; it might just see the end of Barcelona’s Champions League challenge this season.
AC Milan will realise that the tie is far from over; they have to play in Spain against a free-scoring Barcelona, on a bigger and higher quality pitch. This will allow Barcelona to effectively implement their Tiki-taka football and stretch the Milan defence. However, a single away goal by Milan would mean that Barcelona would have to score four against a resolute defence. Will the Catalan giants be able to overcome a 2 goal advantage at the Camp Nou? Tweet us your thoughts @talkingbaws or comment below.