Skip to main content

Barcelona breezes past Milan in Champions League

updated 8:59 PM EDT, Tue March 12, 2013
Leo Messi gave Barcelona the perfect start by curling home an exquisite effort with just five minutes on the clock following a wonderfully intricate team move. Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Barca laid siege to the Milan goal with Andres Iniesta's shot turned onto the crossbar. Leo Messi gave Barcelona the perfect start by curling home an exquisite effort with just five minutes on the clock following a wonderfully intricate team move. Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Barca laid siege to the Milan goal with Andres Iniesta's shot turned onto the crossbar.
HIDE CAPTION
Magic Messi
Jumping for joy
That man once more
Vamos Villa
Alba's last act
Fast start
Hamit hammer
Yes for Yilmaz
Bastos back in it
Turkish delight
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barcelona crushed AC Milan 4-0 to progress 4-2 on aggregate
  • Lionel Messi scored twice with David Villa and Jordi Alba also on target
  • Galatasaray claimed a 3-2 win at German side Schalke
  • Turkish team through to quarterfinals 4-3 on aggregate

(CNN) -- Tuesday -- Barcelona.

It was supposed to be the end of an era, the end of a generation.

Had it not been for a post, then perhaps the world would be looking at a different future. Football is nothing but fickle.

The headline will be Barcelona's 4-0 annihilation of AC Milan, swatting aside the critics and doubters in the only way that this great team know how.

Had the ball deflected off the post and spun the other way, the chilling inquest into Barcelona's fall of grace would have already begun.

The biggest of games, the smallest of margins.

CNN Football Club: Nani's controversial red
Didi Hamann on beating AC Milan
Are German teams the best in Europe?

Read: Milan stun Barcelona in Champions League

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Barca was in a supposed crisis, its crown as Europe's dominant force precariously balanced.

Consecutive defeats to arch rival Real Madrid in domestic competition and the anemic display at San Siro just three weeks ago had stoked the fires.

But on this occasion, it was not just at the Vatican where black smoke rose across Italian skies, but also in Milan, as its Champions League dream went up in flames.

It could have been a different story -- but history is written by the victors and Barcelona were victorious by a considerable distance.

Without coach Tito Vilanova, who is still undergoing cancer treatment, question marks had emerged about the ability of the club to make it through to its sixth consecutive quarterfinal.

And perhaps, but for a post and a roll of the ball, those questions would have been answered quite differently.

Read: Ramos heads Real to victory against Barcelona

Maybe the opportunity fell to the wrong man. At just 18, M'Baye Niang cut an unlikely cast member for the role of hero.

Without a goal to his name since his move to Milan at the end of last season, it was he who was given the golden opportunity to bring Barca to its knees with just seven minutes of the opening period remaining.

Marcel Desailly's Ghana regret
CNN FC: Has Barcelona's golden era ended?
Wenger: A good business man?

Already trailing to Lionel Messi's fifth minute strike, Niang took advantage of an error by Javier Mascherano before gliding towards goal.

This was the moment that Milan had waited for and while Niang hit his effort hard and true, it crashed against the post and away to safety.

An away goal then would have given even Barcelona a mountain to climb with a minimum of four goals needed to progress.

Read: Barcelona to investigate spying claims

Whether Barcelona's world would have crumbled had that ball nestled in the far corner will never be known, but had it done so, then Milan would have at least given itself a chance.

That Barca recorded four anyway will not help Niang sleep any better.

There is little room for "What if?" in sport however and Barcelona left little to chance as it went on to produce a mesmeric performance.

Only last week, a Japanese jeweler created a 25 kilogram solid $5.25 million gold statue of Messi's left foot, although the price may well rise following his latest exploits.

Read: Messi's left foot -- yours for $5.25 million

His early strike, a sumptuous effort following a delightful pass from Xavi, was his 57th in the Champions League, placing him second behind Raul in the all-time top scorers of Europe's elite competition.

His 58th came less than 100 seconds after Niang had threatened to send shockwaves throughout Europe.

This time, albeit with a suspicion of offside, Messi unleashed an unstoppable drive from 20-yards after Massimo Ambrosini had gift wrapped possession to the Barca man.

Ramires (L) celebrates after his equalizer at Old Trafford earned Chelsea an FA Cup quarterfinal replay against Manchester United. Ramires (L) celebrates after his equalizer at Old Trafford earned Chelsea an FA Cup quarterfinal replay against Manchester United.
Ramires rallies Chelsea
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
Chelsea fight back against Man Utd Chelsea fight back against Man Utd
A Newcastle fan shows his support for the club's French foreign legion at the club's home game against Southampton in February. A Newcastle fan shows his support for the club's French foreign legion at the club's home game against Southampton in February.
Allez le Toon
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
French football\'s foreign legion French football's foreign legion
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive second goal against his former side as Real Madrid went through 3-2 on aggregate. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive second goal against his former side as Real Madrid went through 3-2 on aggregate.
Ronaldo winner
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
Real and Dortmund progress to Champions League last eight Real and Dortmund progress to Champions League last eight

The halftime whistle brought some solace for Milan, but it only delayed the inevitable.

If there were any statisticians in the Milan dressing room then they may have known that Barcelona had won both of its previous games during a papal conclave.

But not even a prayer was going to help the Italian side out of this.

Just 10 minutes of the second period had elapsed when Kevin Constant's dreadful error allowed Xavi's pass to skip into the path of David Villa, who curled an exquisite effort into the far corner.

Milan threatened sporadically and a wonderful block from Jordi Alba denied Robinho as Barcelona began to look nervous for the first time in the contest.

But Alba soon laid any worries to rest, racing onto Alexis Sanchez's pass deep into stoppage time before slotting the ball past Abbiati.

For Roura, the result was a relief.

"If there was anyone not sure about Messi then this was the perfect response as he took charge of the game with two goals and showed again that he is an extraordinary player, out of this world," he told reporters.

"Before we weren't so poor and now we are not so great and I wouldn't describe ourselves as favorites for the competition.

"At any stage of the game until the final goal we could have gone out if we had conceded and I would have said the same that we played well and were composed."

Crisis? What crisis.

From the cradle to the grave service provided by Schalke

In the night's other game, Galatasaray booked its place in the last eight with a dramatic 3-2 win over Schalke in Germany to progress 4-3 on aggregate.

Following a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Schalke looked set to progress when Roman Neustadter prodded home from close-range.

But Galatasaray, boasting the likes of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder, was soon level thanks to a stunning 25-yard drive from former Schalke player Hamit Altintop.

Burak Yilmaz then grabbed his eighth goal of the competition to put Galatasaray ahead and put himself top of the Champions League goalscoring charts.

Marco Hoger smashed an effort against the crossbar with 63 minutes gone before Michel Bastos leveled soon after.

But with Schalke pushing up for a winner, Umut Bulut raced through to score and seal his side's place in the quarterfinals for the first time in 12 years.

"We showed we deserve to be in the quarter-finals, but it was a close game and both teams had their chances," said Altintop.

"Perhaps we had a bit of luck at the end, but I'll take that.

"We responded well to fight back after conceding the early goal."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:23 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
After 20 years, more than 300 goals and a host of major honors, Thierry Henry has called time on his glittering football career.
updated 5:14 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
They do things differently at Sociedad Deportiva Eibar, up in the mist-cloaked valleys of the Basque country. And it is working.
updated 8:53 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
He might be struggling to score goals for Liverpool, but Mario Balotelli's cheeky tweet about the British monarch hit the spot during the World Cup.
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
How Real Madrid's new stadium will look
They splash the cash on the world's best players, now Real Madrid are giving the Bernabeu the same treatment with a bling makeover.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
updated 9:48 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
A man as a Roman centurion and who earn his living by posing with tourists gestures in front of the Colosseum during a protest where some of his colleagues climbed on the monument on April 12, 2012 in Rome. The costumed centurions are asking for the right to work there after they were banned following a decision by local authorities.
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
updated 12:22 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
updated 10:11 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
updated 8:47 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
updated 6:34 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
A football fan wipes a tear after Inter Milan's Argentinian defender Javier Zanetti has greeted fans following the announcement of his retirement before the start of the Italian seria A football match Inter Milan vs Lazio, on May 10, 2014, in San Siro Stadium In Milan
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
updated 6:41 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.
ADVERTISEMENT