AC Milan have done what 99 percent considered impossible—and they did it in style. With scores by Ghana internationals Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari, the Rossoneri managed to surpass all expectations and have put themselves in excellent position for the second leg at the Camp Nou.
Milan's win wasn't some fruit of sheer luck—it was a hard-fought battle won by Massimiliano Allegri and his soldiers against Barcelona's hypnotic possession football.
Here are four reasons that show why Milan managed to do what it couldn't last year.
Lady luck played an important role in aiding Milan in their victory today. There were several close calls on defense and they were able to shine offensively against the squad that redefines offense changing tactics almost every four seasons.
One can't talk about Boateng's goal without mentioning the unheralded amount of luck in the bounce they got to open the scoreboard at the 56th minute of the draw.
The referee made the perfect interpretation of the hand-ball rule in a fraction of a second. Zapata's arms were raised to signal he wasn't part of the play—in case he was offside—as the ball had gone out of the box and there were players onside behind him coming diagonally into the play.
Even though he did that, he wasn't offside but, that doesn't matter at all.
What is most baffling about everything in the play is that the Montolivo screamer went directly into his hands almost simultaneously as he raised them. The play was definitely accidental, especially as the ball hit the back of a falling Jordi Alba and, in the process, freed Boateng who put in an easy shot past Valdes.
AC Milan played a game that was more enticing than Chelsea's. Chelsea had huge loads of heart but, except for the Ramires escapade, they did little in both games to actually play Barcelona. Massimiliano Allegri's men did the exact opposite.
While they followed basically the same script as Inter and Chelsea in their wins against Barcelona, they showed tons of heart and actually gave Barcelona a run for their money. Barcelona had 66 percent of possession in the entire match, but Milan managed to generate some chances.
El Shaarawy was caught offside four times and Milan had three corners. Also, Milan shot at Valdes more than Barça at Abbiati. UEFA lists Milan shooting eight total times against Barça's six.
Also, the statistics show the unrelenting defensive effort by the Rossoneri midfield. The top foul perpetrator was Boateng with four, followed by Ignazio Abate and Massimo Ambrosini with three fouls each.
These statistics go to show that Milan just outworked Barcelona on a physical level—the result shows that this was intelligent work which made up for a fun match to watch.
Muntari was a key component of the squad that took Inter Milan to the summit of football in 2009 when they beat Bayern Munich for the Champions League title. While I'm not a fan of Muntari's effort on the pitch, today, he was the thermometer for the whole squad.
Muntari played an excellent match today. He started a bit shaky with a clearance that backfired disastrously into Abbiati's hands but, as time wore on, Muntari's passing got more accurate.
As Milan were more sure of their efforts after scoring with Boateng, Muntari's game grew until it reached it's apex with the goal he scored in the 81st minute.
That play is a perfect example of the type of game Milan played. Ambrosini first cut off a Jordi Alba pass right to Montolivo. Montolivo then sprung wide M'Baye Niang, right on Jordi Alba's back. Niang proceeded to cut inside and pass to El Shaarawy. El Shaarawy then lobbed the ball to the free Muntari who hit a wonderful volley past Valdes.
Ambrosini's defensive role enabled Montolivo to do what he does best, make plays as the regista. From then on, it was speed on the wing until the ball reached its destination.
Statistics show that Barcelona only shot twice on target. Abbiati, despite his team being on defense, was largely a spectator of the spectacular efforts of Mexes, Abate, Montolivo and their cohorts.
Abbiati, throughout his career, has been a serviceable goalkeeper—however, for AC Milan standards, he always seemed to be a bit lacking. Also, he commits bizarre mistakes which cement him as mid-level keeper. Due to their defensive prowess and shot-blocking, Abbiati didn't have to showcase his skills against the best offense in the last 20 years.