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Rediff.com  » Sports » Champions League: Barca shocked by Milan; Galatasaray held by Schalke

Champions League: Barca shocked by Milan; Galatasaray held by Schalke

Last updated on: February 21, 2013 10:20 IST

Barcelona shocked by AC Milan

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Barcelona's treble hopes were hanging in the balance after they were strategically outplayed in a 2-0 defeat by AC Milan in their Champions League last-16 first-leg match on Wednesday.

Second-half goals by Ghanaians Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari left Barcelona with a huge task in the second leg after a night when Lionel Messi was conspicuously quiet for the Catalans.

Barcelona were fuming about the first goal when the ball appeared to strike the hand of Cristian Zapata before it ricocheted into the path of Boateng to fire home in the 57th minute.

There was no doubt about the second, however, as Stephan El Shaarawy lifted the ball up for Muntari to volley past the helpless Victor Valdes with 10 minutes left.

Image: AC Milan's Sulley Muntari (centre) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Barcelona during their Champions League match on Wednesday
Photographs: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

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Contrasting approach by both teams

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La Liga leaders and Copa del Rey semi-finalists Barcelona, who failed to score for only the second time this season, dominated the first half in typical fashion but struggled to get past Milan's two lines of four defenders.

The Catalans' starting line-up featured 10 players from their youth academy and nine internationals with world and European champions Spain.

They were facing a Milan side patched together during the course of the season after a fire-sale of top players during the off season to help balance the books.

The contrast was apparent in the first half as Barca passed the ball around with amazing speed and accuracy with an almost telepathic understanding.

Milan's approach was much more haphazard as they struggled to string passes together, lost possession in key areas of midfield and thumped hopeful balls forward.

Image: Kevin Prince Boateng of AC Milan celebrates after scoring the first goal against Barcelona on Wednesday
Photographs: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

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'We made some mistakes in the first half but we improved a lot in the second'

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"The result is what it is. We had the game under control, although admittedly we didn't create too many clear chances and neither did they," Barcelona's interim coach Jordi Roura, standing in for Tito Vilanova who is recovering from throat surgery, said.

"We hoped we could wear them down. Their first goal was an isolated attack following a shot and a rebound."

"It's a bad result but I'm absolutely convinced that we can turn this around in the second leg with the support of our crowd."

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri was typically unflappable.

"The boys deserved this result. They didn't give anything away at a defensive level and they made the most of they had," he said in his usual monotone.

"We made some mistakes in the first half but we improved a lot in the second... the tie is very open."


Image: AC Milan's Kevin Constant (right) challenges Barcelona's Lionel Messi (centre) during their Champions League match on Wednesday
Photographs: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

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El Shaarawy missed an early chance at goal

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Milan, who failed to win in their previous seven meetings with Barcelona, fired an early warning shot when Muntari went close with a dipping 30-metre volley which flew over the crossbar after five minutes.

El Shaarawy should have done better when he was sent clear by Kevin-Prince Boateng's flicked pass but failed to control the ball as he raced towards goal, allowing Carles Puyol to intercept.

From the corner, Boateng, who played for Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, hooked the ball just wide of the far post, giving Barca another scare.

Image: AC Milan's Stephan El Shaarawy (left) misses a scoring opportunity against Barcelona on Wednesday
Photographs: Tony Gentile/Reuters

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Milan struck the first blow despite Barca having most possession

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Barca, who could have had a penalty when Dani Alves' whipped cross clearly hit Philippe Mexes' outstretched arm, took control with their familiar slick passing.

But they did not create many openings with Messi repeatedly blocked out by a pack of defenders who hounded him every time he got the ball.

The second half started with more Barcelona possession before Milan struck the first blow. A short free kick was played by Riccardo Montolivo, his low shot struck Jordi Alba, ricocheted against Zapata and fell to Boateng to sweep into the goal.

Barca protested furiously, clearly unsettled and the match degenerated into a niggly affair, with the visitors infuriating the crowd at one point by keeping possession after a drop ball.


Image: AC Milan's Sulley Muntari (left) and Barcelona's Pedro in an aerial challenge during their Champions League match on Wednesday
Photographs: Tony Gentile/Reuters

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'We did not play with our usual fluidity'

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Andres Iniesta was close to equalising with a shot which swerved wide while an out-of-sorts Messi blasted a free kick high into the stands.

Instead, Milan added another when Muntari sent the 75,000 crowd into raptures with a stunning finish to an excellent move.

"We did not play with our usual fluidity," added Roura.

"We did not create the chances we normally create. I don't think it's correct to talk about the referee."

The return leg is on March 12

Image: Mario Balotelli and girlfriend Fanny Neguesha attend the Champions League match between AC Milan and Barcelona on Wednesday
Photographs: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

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Drogba impresses on Galatasaray CL debut

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Didier Drogba impressed on his Champions League debut for Galatasaray but the Turkish side were held to a 1-1 draw by Schalke 04 after an entertaining last 16 first leg on Wednesday.

The Ivory Coast striker, last year's Champions League hero for Chelsea who moved to the Istanbul club last month after a spell in China, linked up well with Burak Yilmaz in attack.

Yilmaz scored his seventh goal in seven Champions League matches, putting Galatasaray ahead in the 12th minute when he picked up a pass from Selcuk Inan and flicked the ball around a defender to power in a shot past keeper Timo Hildebrand.

"We scored a beautiful goal early in the game with Selcuk's intelligent pass and Burak's talented shot. We could have scored a second goal, we found the chances, the game could have taken a totally different shape," said Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim.

Schalke equalised in the closing seconds of a pulsating first half.

Image: Galatasaray's Didier Drogba (left) is challenged by Schalke 04's Sead Kolasinac (right) during their Champions League match on Wednesday
Photographs: Murad Sezer/Reuters

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'We will learn lessons from this game'

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The visitors broke quickly, Jefferson Farfan passing across the goal to Jermaine Jones who side-footed past Fernando Muslera, leaving the German side well placed ahead of the second leg.

"We played very well tonight and did many right things on the pitch. We found many chances but made individual mistakes, one of which cost us a goal," said Schalke coach Jens Keller.

"We could have scored more goals, but I am very happy with our performance in this great atmosphere," he added.

"We will learn lessons from this game and take necessary precautions for the second leg."

Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder, another big-name acquisition by ambitious Galatasaray, was substituted after the first half in an apparent tactical move by a player who still did not appear match fit.


Image: Galatasaray's Burak Yilmaz (centre) scores past Schalke 04's goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand (right) and Joel Matip (left) during their Champions League match on Wednesday
Photographs: Osman Orsal/Reuters

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Schalke began strongly

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Schalke, in poor form in the Bundesliga, began strongly with Jones cutting in from the left and firing in a shot, forcing a save from Muslera in the first minute.

But spurred on by the passionate home fans, Galatasaray soon began to demonstrate their attacking power in what was an open game from the outset.

The visitors had a chance to equalise soon after Yilmaz's opener, but Klaas-Jan Huntelaar failed to steer the ball in at the far post.

Hamit Altinop nearly doubled the home team's lead in the 18th minute with a powerful shot which ricocheted of the bar after Hildebrand saved an effort from Drogba.

Yilmaz had another chance to score in the 38th minute when Drogba put him through on goal but Hildebrand blocked his shot.


Image: Schalke 04's Jermaine Jones celebrates his goal against Galatasaray during their Champions League match on Wednesday
Photographs: Osman Orsal/Reuters

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'We will keep chasing the chances until the very last second['

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The match continued to alternate attacks in the second half and Farfan had a chance to put the visitors ahead in the 55th minute but his effort was blocked by Sabri Sarioglu.

In the final stages, Galatasaray pressed harder for an equaliser while Schalke looked to hang on for a draw.

Yilmaz had a great chance to put Galatasaray back ahead in the 77th minute but he fired wide of the Schalke goal.

"We could have scored or conceded in the second half. Of course Schalke holds the advantage now, having forced us to a draw, but we will keep chasing the chances until the very last second," Terim said.

Image: Galatasaray's Selcuk Inan (right) and Schalke 04's Michel Bastos (left) fall during a challenge in their Champions League match on Wednesday
Photographs: Murad Sezer/Reuters

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