It was happy times for Cesc and Messi at the Nou Camp as Barcelona (eventually) comfortably beat Milan
So Pep was right and why did we ever doubt him?: ‘I have a feeling that Milan are going to score,’ he said in the run up to his side’s Champions League quarter-final return leg at home to AC Milan.
Actually it didn’t take a genius to predict that: although the first leg had ended in 0-0 in the San Siro a week earlier, two clashes between Barca and Milan in the group stage earlier this season had produced nine goals, with Milan clawing a 2-2 draw in the Camp Nou.
A similar result on Tuesday would have put the Italians through on away goals, so when Nocerino accepted Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s pass to make it 1-1 on the night after 32 minutes, although the writing wasn’t on the wall for Barca, someone was definitely shaking the can ready to start painting.
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho had said earlier in the day that he wasn’t going to watch Barca-Milan as it was more important for him to following the Bayern-Olympique Marseilles tie: logical as Madrid would play the winner of that game in the semi.
Mourinho’s decision may have allowed him to glean some more information about Bayern (incidentally the first team from Spain, Germany, England or Italy that Madrid will meet in the Champions League this season), but he missed out on the more entertaining game and a possible chance to fuel his anti-Barca paranoia.
The fans may be a bit quiet at times in the Camp Nou, but they do know how to organize a mosaic; ‘Always Together’ it read in Catalan as the sides took to the pitch, before going at each other hammer and tongs for the first 10 minutes.
Zlatan saw the ball nipped off his feet by Pique, who looked to be back to his best until suffering a muscle strain, and Messi fired wide with his right foot, before Amtonini swept his feet away in the penalty area. Penalty: referee Bjorn Keupers pointed to the spot and Messi slipped the ball past Abiatti’s outstretched hand.
Barca were in control, but Pep knows…and Nocerino’s strike left them needing another goal and helped provide the big moment of controversy in the game four minutes before the break.
There is no doubt Nesta pulls Busquets’ shirt from the corner. To use a cliché its ‘one of those penalties that you see 10 games a game, but which are rarely given.’ But he pulled his shirt and it was Busquets, so Busquets made sure Mr Keupers saw it by falling over and getting tangled up in Puyol. The big question is whether or not the ball was in play. Pep was clear about it: “On TV you can see they were both penalties, although maybe there are places where they don’t get given. A shirt pull in the area is a penalty,” he insisted, and remember Pep could win a gold medal for sitting on the fence if need be.
Zlatan - and hell has no fury like a striker scorned - saw it differently, taking a leaf out of the Mourinho book of moans. “It was strange and it ruined the game. I don’t understand why it was given. Barca don’t need help like that, we are talking about the best side in the World. I am starting to understand what Mourinho means when he comes to play against them. Now I have seen it for myself I understand him more and more,” he said before storming off looking for someone to poke in the eye.
And Spain wouldn’t be Spain and Catalonia wouldn’t be Catalonia if it wasn’t for the clear discrepancies between the press. Pro-Real Madrid Diario AS quotes Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri as saying “It’s hard to make up ground if they get help,” while the pro-Barca Mundo Deportivo has the Milan coach commenting “Barca are fair winners.”
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