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Record-breaking Messi sends Barca into semis

03 Apr 2012 22:17:01

Record-breaking Messi sends Barca into semis

A double by three-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi inspired holders Barcelona to a fifth successive appearance in the Champions League semi-finals after a 3-1 win over AC Milan here on Tuesday in their quarter-final second leg clash and win by the same scoreline on aggregate.

Messi's brace of first-half penalties took him to 51 Champions League goals - at 24 the youngest to achieve this landmark - and a total this season of 14 breaking the previous record held by himself and Ruud van Nistelrooy of 12.

Andres Iniesta's well-taken goal early in the second-half wrapped up the match and they will face wither Chelsea or Benfica in the semi-finals as they bid to become the first team to retain the trophy since it became the Champions League in the 1992/93 season.

Antonio Nocerino had pulled a goal back for Milan to level briefly in the first-half but in the end there was no stopping Barcelona emulating the great Real Madrid side of the 1950's in reaching five successive semi-finals.

A fired up Messi, who has been the top scorer in the Champions League for the past three seasons but had only scored once before against Italian opposition, had three chances inside the first ten minutes before finally scoring.

He shot straight at the keeper from the edge of the area and then side footed wide after a delightful link up with Cesc Fabregas.

At the San Siro, Milan had looked composed and managed to disrupt Barca's usual passing game but now they were looking edgy especially at the back where they were missing Thiago Silva in the centre.

One error after another led to Barca's opening goal.

Massimo Ambrosini was dispossessed in midfield by Messi who tore into the area and then appeared to make the wrong decision in playing the ball back to Xavi. Full-back Luca Antonini dispossessed the Spain international but then went through the back of Messi and the referee awarded the penalty which the Argentine despatched into the corner.

Milan eventually began to settle and scored with their first moment of real danger.

Robinho went on a jinking run and then found Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the edge of the area, who picked out Nocerino and he calmly slid the ball past keeper Victor Valdes.

Milan had got themselves back into the game but then found themselves chasing the game again before the break, after another penalty was signalled for a shirt tug by Nesta on Busquets as a corner was being delivered.

Messi stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards.

Still Milan knew that a goal would put them through to the next round but their task was made a lot tougher after 53 minutes when Iniesta put Barca further ahead.

Messi was again involved with his shot blocked by Philippe Mexes and the rebound unluckily for the defender ran to Iniesta who slotted home clinically from close range.

Barca managed to take the steam out of the game in what was a scrappy final half an hour which was regularly broken up by niggly challenges.

The home side had the chances though to win by a larger margin with Thiago Alcantara and Adriano both shooting wide.


AFP

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