Messi on the spot for Barca
Lionel Messi brought up his half century of Champions League goals as Barcelona booked their place in the semi-finals with victory over Milan.
By Rob Parrish - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsrobp
Last Updated: 03/04/12 10:02pm
Lionel Messi brought up his half century of UEFA Champions League goals as Barcelona booked their place in the semi-finals with a 3-1 victory over AC Milan at Camp Nou.
The Argentina international converted a pair of penalties in the first half to take his tally in Europe's premier club competition to an astonishing 51, becoming the youngest player to reach the milestone at the age of just 24.
After a 0-0 draw in the San Siro, Messi fired the hosts in front with just 11 minutes gone when he drilled low into the corner to Christian Abbiati's right, having been felled by Luca Antonini just at the moment when Milan thought the danger of a lightning break had passed.
Milan stunned Camp Nou when they drew level in the 32nd minute with Antonio Nocerino demonstrating great composure to beat Victor Valdes after being released by a superb threaded pass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But the Serie A side then shot themselves in the foot, with Alessandro Nesta penalised for a blatant pull on Sergio Busquets' shirt, allowing Messi to send Abbiati the wrong way from the spot as he found the opposite bottom corner just before the interval.
Pep Guardiola's side effectively ended the contest early in the second period when Andres Iniesta showed good skill to beat Abbiati from close range after Messi's blocked shot on the edge of the box looped into his path.
The defending champions will now tackle the winners of the quarter-final between Chelsea and Benfica, with the Premier League side leading 1-0 from the first leg in Portugal.
Barcelona's all-time top-scorer, Messi, now holds another prestigious record as he equalled former Milan striker Jose Altafini's record of 14 goals in one season of European football's top club competition, with the defending champions through to their fifth successive semi-final.
However, his side were made to work at times for their place in the last four by a Milan team that showed far more attacking intent than during their last visit in September.
The hosts started strongly and Messi could have given them an even earlier lead as he uncharacteristically wasted two good sights of goal within the first six minutes, firstly firing straight at Abbiati and then side-footing wide after a wonderful pass from Cesc Fabregas.
The reigning champions were in front four minutes later, though, as Messi won the ball on the left and after his square ball to Xavi rebounded back into the Argentinian's path, he was brought down by a desperate challenge from Antonini. Messi stepped up to roll in his 57th goal of the season.
However, against the run of play the Italians equalised on 32 minutes as Robinho and Ibrahimovic combined to play in Nocerino and he finished calmly to give Milan the advantage on away goals.
Xavi had a fierce effort beaten away by Abbiati minutes later as Barca responded immediately and they were handed the chance to retake the lead five minutes before the break as Busquets was hauled down by Nesta and referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot for the second time. Messi this time choose to go to Abbiati's left and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Milan had their own claim for a penalty two minutes into the second period as Ibrahimovic went down under pressure from Javier Mascherano, however, this time Kuipers waved away the claims.
And five minutes later Barca had the two-goal cushion they craved as Messi's deflected effort found its way through to Iniesta and he showed great composure to stab the ball past Abbiati from a narrow angle.
Kevin-Prince Boateng should have reduced the arrears when he headed over when unmarked from Clarence Seedorf's corner, but at the other end substitute Thiago Alcantara wasted an even better opportunity as he pulled his effort wide after another fine pass from Messi.
There was a further worry for Milan, with injury-prone substitute Pato joining the fray in the 70th minute, only to depart just 13 minutes later.Adriano should have sealed the tie but skewed horribly wide when clean through with three minutes remaining - but Barca saw out the final stages to equal Real Madrid's record of five straight semi-finals from 1956-60.
|2||1st Half Goals||1|
|8||Shots on Target||1|
|10||Shots off Target||1|