CL PHOTOS: Irrepressible Messi leads Barca into semis
Lionel Messi led Barcelona almost effortlessly past AC Milan into the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday with a thrilling 3-1 victory at the Nou Camp as the Argentine and his team mates got into the record books along the way.
The World Player of the Year scored twice from the penalty spot, his 14 goals in the competition so far bettering the previous record by two. The brace took his season tally in all competitions to an astonishing 58.
Messi helped set up the decisive third for Andres Iniesta just after the break, assuring the holders of a place in a fifth successive Champions League semi-final, matching a record achieved by arch-rivals Real Madrid between 1956 and 1960.
Image: Barcelona's Lionel Messi (right) celebrates with Carles Puyol (left), Daniel Alves (second left) and Cesc Fabregas after scoring a penalty against AC Milan during their Champions League quarter-final second leg soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona
Photographs: Albert Gea/REUTERS
We deserved to qualify: Guardiola
"We deserved to qualify and we are very proud to be in the semis for a fifth time," Barca coach Pep Guardiola said.
"We had 21 shots on target and that against an Italian team.
Barcelona will play the winners of the quarter-final tie between Chelsea and Benfica which the London side lead 1-0 going into the second leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
"I have no preference for the semis, the two teams would both be very tough," Guardiola added.
Image: Barcelona's Pique celebrates with team-mates after Messi scored a penalty against AC Milan
Photographs: Albert Gea/REUTERS
Messi gets cracking early on
The game kicked off in a crackling atmosphere, Barca leaving three at the back and racing forward at every opportunity which gave Milan plenty of opportunities for counter-attacks.
Messi had already come close to scoring twice when Luca Antonini slid into the back of him in the area and bundled the Barca forward over for the first penalty after 11 minutes.
Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati guessed right but Messi's spot kick was tight in the corner.
Soon the former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic slipped a pass into the area for Antonio Nocerino to fire in the equaliser after 32 minutes.
Image: Barcelona's Messi scores a penalty goal past AC Milan's goalkeeper Abbiati
Photographs: Gustau Nacarino/ REUTERS
'Barcelona is the best team around, we knew that'
Barca were awarded a second penalty in the 41st when Alessandro Nesta pulled Sergio Busquets back by his shirt at a corner, a decision that was hotly disputed by the Milan players. This time Messi sent Abbiati the wrong way from the spot.
"We made a mistake for the first penalty, but at the second we have seen the referee give the decision far too easily to Barcelona," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri complained.
Barca sought to control the game more after a frenetic first half and got the breathing space they wanted in the 53rd minute.
Messi arrowed across the edge of the area and when his shot was blocked it broke to Iniesta, who showed great composure to dink it over the diving keeper.
"Barcelona is the best team around, we knew that," Milan midfielder Massimo Ambrosini told Italian TV. "I thought we started well but they played better in the second half. We could maybe have done a bit more tonight but over the two matches I don't know how much more we could have done."
Image: Barcelona's Iniesta scores a goal past AC Milan's goalkeeper Abbiati
Photographs: Sergio Carmona/REUTERS
Olic brace aids Bayern into semis
Bayern Munich's Ivica Olic struck twice to give his team a 2-0 win over Olympique Marseille on Tuesday and send them into the Champions League semi-finals with a 4-0 aggregate victory.
The Croat, a surprise addition in the line-up ahead of Bundesliga top scorer Mario Gomez, gave the hosts a flying start when he connected with a Franck Ribery pass in the 13th minute. He tapped in his second after a well-timed pass from David Alaba in the 37th.
Four-time European champions Bayern look set to meet nine-time winners Real Madrid in a mouth-watering semi-final later this month, with the Spanish club hosting APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday and holding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg in Cyprus.
Image: Bayern Munich's Olic celebrates goal during Champions League quarter-final match against Olympique Marseille in Munich
Photographs: Michaela Rehle/REUTERS
Olic dashes all the French hopes
Bayern, who booked their spot in the competition's last four for the second time in three seasons with their 13th win in the last 14 Champions League home games, are desperate for a final appearance that will be hosted by Munich on May 19.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes opted to leave winger Arjen Robben and Gomez, who has scored 11 goals in the competition, on the bench, and start instead with Olic, set to leave at the end of the season, and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
Marseille, who needed to score at least three goals, had two shots on target in the opening minutes but Bayern got the early goal they wanted, dashing any French hopes when former Marseille player Ribery cut back into the box for Olic to slot in.
Olic, who has been sidelined by Gomez with the Germany international scoring 23 times in the league this season, got his second of the evening, timing his run to connect with Alaba's low cross.
Image: Players of Bayern Munich celebrate after their Champions League quarter-final second leg soccer match against Olympique Marseille in Munich
Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/REUTERS