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Barca book semi-final berth

03 Apr 2012 22:17:01

Barca book semi-final berth

Barcelona qualified for the Champions League semi-finals for the fifth consecutive season as two Lionel Messi penalties and a second-half strike from Andres Iniesta inspired them to a 3-1 win over AC Milan.

The Argentinian opened the scoring on 10 minutes after he had been brought down by Luca Antonini but Antonio Nocerino levelled just after the half hour after he was set up by Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his return to the Camp Nou.

Messi restored the Catalans' lead five minutes before the break as Alessandro Nesta was penalised for holding Sergio Busquets and inevitably the World Player of the Year was involved again for the third as his blocked effort rebounded for Iniesta to fire home.

Barcelona's all-time top-scorer now holds another record as he equalled former Milan striker Jose Altafini's record of 14 goals in one season of European football's top club competition. However, his side were made to suffer for their place in the last four by a Milan team that showed far more attacking intent than during their last visit in September.

The hosts started strongly and Messi could have given them an even earlier lead as he uncharacteristically wasted two good sights of goal within the first six minutes, firstly firing straight at Christian Abbiati and then side-footing wide after a wonderful pass from Cesc Fabregas.

The reigning champions were in front four minutes later though as Messi robbed the ball on the left and after his square ball to Xavi rebounded back into the Argentinian's path, he was brought down by a desperate challenge from Antonini. Messi stepped up to roll in his 57th goal of the season.

However, against the run of play the Italians equalised on 32 minutes as Robinho and Ibrahimovic combined to play in Nocerino and he finished calmly to give Milan the advantage on away goals.

Xavi had a fierce effort beaten away by Abbiati minutes later as Barca responded immediately and they were handed the chance to retake the lead five minutes before the break as Busquets was hauled down by Nesta and referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot for the second time. Messi chose to go to Abbiati's left and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Barca soon had the two-goal cushion they craved as Messi's deflected effort found its way through to Iniesta and he showed great composure to stab the ball past Abbiati from a narrow angle.

Kevin-Prince Boateng headed over when unmarked from Clarence Seedorf's corner but at the other end substitute Thiago Alcantara wasted an even better opportunity as he pulled his effort wide after another fine pass from Messi. Adriano should have sealed the tie but skewed horribly wide when clean through with three minutes remaining.


PA

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