Milan Have Only Themselves To Blame For The Capitulation In Barcelona

Deportivo, Liverpool, Arsenal and now Barcelona - the Milan side froze at the Camp Nou and can now add the latter to the list of Champions League capitulations.
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Deportivo, Liverpool, Arsenal and now Barcelona - the Milan side froze at the Camp Nou and can now add the latter to the list of Champions League capitulations.

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Barcelona 2013 can now be added to Deportivo 2004, Istanbul 2005 and to a certain extent the Emirates 2012 as dates of infamy for Milan.

In each game, what had seemed insurmountable leads were lost, although at Arsenal they survived a 3-0 defeat to progress.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that as Rossoneri coach Massimiliano Allegri’s admitted his side were given an absolute “hiding” at the Camp Nou.

The Catalans produced a stunning display of passing, movement and clinical finishing from not only Lionel Messi but David Villa and in the end Jordi Alba for a resounding 4-0 victory.

The fact that Milan were protecting a 2-0 advantage from the first leg meant little in the return where they were totally outclassed and outplayed, with Messi who had been anonymous at the San Siro at the heart of everything that was good about the home side’s display.

Milan were desperate to ensure that history of failing to hold on to a solid lead did not repeat itself but from the first whistle everything they set out not to do they did: giving the ball from the kick-off they hardly touched it again until Messi had opened the scoring on five minutes.

Allegri had decided not to forgo his 4-3-3 formation and add an extra body in midfield where Barcelona took advantage to run riot.

The veteran captain Massimo Ambrosini had been one of the heroes in the first leg in a crowded centre of the pitch where he won challenge after challenge but this time he was just dense when he did manage to regain possession - booting the ball widely in the general direction of the halfway line, only for the tide to turn towards the Milan backline again.

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He had little support from the lightweight Riccardo Montolivo and the one-paced Mathieu Flamini while Kevin Prince Boateng ran in circles chasing the whippet-like Andres Iniesta. Montolivo in particular, was a major disappointment as the Italy international has been the team’s creative hub this season.

In football parlance, he went missing, dropping further and further back although one of his long balls did find its way to M’Baye Niang and although the youngster hit a clean shot, after racing clear, the effort came back off the post.

Two minutes later and the home side were 2-0 up; and in almost a photo-fit of the opener, possession was given away cheaply in midfield by Ambrosini and in a flash Iniesta had played in Messi on the edge of the area.

As in the build-up to the first goal, Philippe Mexes stood off the Argentine and paid the price. Irresistible all evening no one could get near Messi never mind the immobileFrenchman in the centre of a defence that also included the stationary Cristian Zapata.

Milan’s game-plan in the second half was force the play further up the pitch to give the defence some respite and for a period - all of ten minutes - it brought some success, with their main hope of causing problems, Stephan El Shaarawy, seeing some of the ball.

However, as Allegri once again conceded, the pressing game only sapped energy when Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Messi were in such an upbeat mood and the strain was already itched deep into the visitors’ faces before David Villa added the all-important third goal.

From there, Milan knew that they needed that precious away goal and their best outlet was the swift right-back Ignazio Abate who gave Pedro and Alba a good run for their money but with no out-and-out striker in the shape of Giampaolo Pazzini or the ineligible Mario Balotelli there was nothing to aim for in the area.

Desperation saw the introduction of Sulley Muntari and Robinho but it was the arrival former Barca player Bojan Krikic who caused the most danger - dancing to the byline and crossing for Robinho whose first-time shot was blocked by Alba.

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The fourth goal deep into added time came about when Milan needed to get a ball into the area from a free-kick but instead suddenly turned all Barca and tried to pass their way forward and fell to a quick counter-attack.

However, there was only one team in it all evening and at the final whistle, Italian television cornered a disconsolate Ambrosini who was almost speechless as he left the pitch.

Allegri had more time to analyse the evening from the sidelines and pointed to the fact that his players had failed to pressure high enough up the pitch early on and get close enough to their opposite numbers, but he refused to blame his team for lack of effort and pointed to the fact that he had three young players in El Shaarawy, Mattia Sciglio who was on the bench and Niang who would one day grace venues such as the Camp Nou again.

Abate echoed his coach’s comments but he was a little more scathing in the way errors had played into the hands of the opposition, claiming that the basics had gone out the window which was an indirect way of saying that the likes of Ambrosini and Muntari could not trap a bag of cement and that too many of the side’s supposed big names had frozen.

When you know you can take pride in your personal performance on such a disastrous evening you probably feel you can speak your mind and Abate laid the blame firmly on the team’s approach, claiming that “we handed them the first half on a plate” and “when they have time on the ball you saw what they did with it”.

The 4-0 defeat Deportivo La Corunà after leading 4-1 from the first leg was considered an anomaly, Liverpool’s second-half comeback from 3-0 down a once in a lifetime moment but everyone could see what was on the horizon at the Camp Nou and Milan were swept away by the Barca tsunami.