Five thoughts after watching Barcelona beat Milan 3-1 and move into the Champions League once more.
Following the scoreless first leg of the UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal between AC Milan and FC Barcelona at the San Siro Stadium last week, the referees were criticized on their calls, or lack thereof. Prior to kick off at the Camp Nou, an announcement was made, in both Catalan and Italian, declaring the importance of referees and a kind request that fans and reporters alike should respect the decisions made by these men.
Often times we all think that we would have seen things that these men miss, decisions that could change an entire game. Case in point, the two penalty kicks that were given to FCB; surely one could admit that it was the two penalty goals by Messi (’10 and ’40) that put Barca in a comfortable spot.
Fair? Ask any Italian fan and they will tell you that Xavi, who went unpunished for a late tackle, should have at least received a yellow card.
UEFA Fair Play- the term itself is an oxymoron.
Camp Nou Intimidation?
Cliché as it may sound, one hears about teams and their concerns prior to visiting the Camp Nou. Perhaps it is the intensity of the fans or maybe it is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Barcelona rarely gets beaten at home ground and you wonder how many teams are beaten before they start.
But after the game Zlatan Ibrahimovic decided he came down on the side of Jose Mourinho who has been open in his belief that referees favor Barcelona. Ibrahimovic empathized with the coaches accusation; “I now understand Mourinho…I’m just disgusted. They are the best team in the world but at 1-1, and playing with intelligence, you can do something.”
Or maybe Ibra is just looking for a new coach and club.
Messi – Simply Unstoppable
If Messi continues on this record breaking streak, the day will soon come when fans will be left disappointed if he doesn’t rewrite history every time he puts on his jersey. Last night, the Argentine striker scored his 51st goal in his Champions League journey, which started in the 2004/5 season.
He is now the 3rd highest goal scorer in the competition, behind Raul (71) and Van Nistelrooy (56). This season alone, he has already scored 14 goals and is merely one goal away from becoming the player with the most goals in any season. The second penalty kick taken by the Argentine last night was the one that set him level with Jose Altafini, who managed the same feat in the 62/63 season. Ironically, Altafini did it while playing for Milan.
Following the elimination of AC Milan last night, FC Barcelona became the first club to reach Champions League Semi finals five times in a row. This is under the Champions League format that was introduced in the 1992/93 season. Prior to Champions League today, it was the European Cup and Barca made it to the semifinals four times – although not consecutively.
They faced off against Real Madrid (59/60), Hamburg (60/61), Leeds (74/75) and Goteborg (85/86). After 1992, and not including this season, they have made it to the semifinals 8 times, facing off Porto, Valencia, Real Madrid (twice), Milan, Manchester United, Chelsea and Inter.
Of the 12 appearances FCB has won six and have gone on to win the title four times. Can they add another? We now know that Chelsea stands in their way.
When reflecting on the game stats, it is hard to see how many can claim that Barca was favored by the referees. Barca displayed their world renowned tiki-taka football from beginning to end. Ball possession at the end of the game was 70% for Barca, making one wonder what Allegri focused on in preparation for this match.
Clearly, it was not defense, but on the other hand, it could not have been offense either, since FCB had 21 shots on goal, while AC Milan had a meager 3.
Whether you believe that the referees favored Barcelona, or simply that the better team prevailed, we all wait patiently for the semi-final against Chelsea in two weeks time.
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