Cometh the hour, cometh the man and there was Messi for Barcelona when they needed him the most to carry them through to the quarter finals of the Champions league. In what was an extraordinary night for Barcelona the Argentine scored two goals to silence all the talks about his inability to score against the Italians.
The biggest challenges in life brings out the best in people, as they rise to face adversity and yet again the man rose above his haters and hit back at his critics even harder.
The 4-0 thumping is extraordinary for many reasons. First of all, it will definitely end the talks about how Barca’s season have been crumbing down. It was probably a glitch in the form and nothing more as they lost their first team coach Tito Vilanova due to a gland cancer. The assistant coach Jordi Roura stepped in and understandably any team, leave alone Barcelona will need time to adjust to a new boss.
After consecutive defeats against Real Madrid in the space of a 10 days, the Catalans regrouped themselves with a 2-0 win over Deportivo in the weekend before hosting the Italians. The team raised their level when it was more needed and all of a sudden it was clicking for the Spaniards. There was high pressure (watch the third goal for instance, Iniesta recovering possession), hunger, different pace in different parts of the pitch, and different pace in different parts of the game (mixing defensive control, with patience to build up, adding a couple of gears in the last third). For once I thought Pep Guardiola was back on the dugout giving instructions. It was very much the Barcelona of old.
Messi opened the party just after five minutes after the kickoff with a fabulous curling shot into the top corner to make it 1-0. And it was all one way traffic after that as the hosts poured in wave after wave of pure Spanish class and were 2-0 up by the 40th minute. Though the Italians had some moments to cherish from the counters, there was no real end product to it. If it’s not for the two spectacular saves from Abbiati, Milan would have been done and dusted right before the first half whistle.
The second half started much like the first half ended and a pass from Xavi had cut the Milan defence wide open 10 minutes after the restart to give David Villa a clear cut chance which he utilized to perfection. 3-0 up and yet there was no signs of a lapse in concentration as Barca holded on to their first clean sheets in over 13 games. Left-back Jordi Alba galloped the full length of the pitch to clip home Alexis Sanchez’s cross to make it 4-0. The Italian job, well and truly done in a Spanish style.
Post Match Thoughts:
For once you have to accept the fact that the consistency that was there during the Pep era is gone and even the most deluded fan of Barca will accept it. After such a poor performance in the first leg, they needed a performance like last night to maintain the standards that have been set over the past few years. It came after three blows, twice against Madrid and once against Milan. These drastic change in consistency levels can only be cured, no matter what happens this season by the recycling the team that has won everything that can be won by a football club.
Strange day to say this when we should be celebrating another magic Messi night, another step towards greatness by Iniesta, another proof that the team is mentally strong. But as Pep would have said, but did not do in the last season, sometimes new players have to come in to challenge the regulars. This should be the summer where we see footballers like Alexis, Pedro, Adriano, Villa, Alves leaving. So nights like that one become an exception – in the good years, they were not needed because homework and consistency had allowed them to be ahead of the game.
Barcelona will continue winning titles but what happened in the first three years under Pep will not be repeated anytime soon. If Barcelona convince Neymar to come this summer, they are already asking the team to win in a different way.
Watch the match highlights here:[youtube width="500" height="300"]2il4yBRkDW4[/youtube]