Barcelona did what seemed impossible after the first leg against AC Milan by storming their way into the quarterfinals of the 2013 UEFA Champions League.
Having lost the first leg 2-0 and needing to therefore win by at least three goals in order to progress through to the next round of competition, the Spanish powerhouse showed their attacking best on Tuesday night—threading four goals past a helpless Milan defense that didn't stand a chance.
Barca simply dominated in every aspect of the match—controlling the tempo of the game, the possession and the attacking opportunities—and the final score reflected that. However, what it perhaps doesn't show is the brilliance of certain individual players tonight for the hosts.
That's not to say that the entire team wasn't terrific, they most certainly were. Yet even amongst a perfect team performance, certain individuals stood up and won this game for La Blaugrana—stealing the show in the process with their excellence.
Read on to see which players stole the show in Barca's phenomenal comeback.
The Barcelona midfielder was again at his tactical best here—controlling the center of the field and Barca's attacking play as a result of his positioning. But even still, to emerge with the sheer numbers and control that he did throughout this one is staggering, even by his standards.
With Milan dropping seven or eight players to cover the top of the box and filling up the little space available as a result, Xavi was superb for Barcelona.
Xavi finished with a staggering 125 passes at a 90 percent completion rate, with three goal-scoring chances created throughout the night. Two of those transpired into assists (one for Lionel Messi and the other for David Villa), and definitely changed the flow of this match as a result.
The midfielder would cap of his phenomenal passing night with 100 percent completion rate on his through balls and 11 out of 12 of his long balls. He played the full 90 minutes and was instrumental and capitalizing on turnovers, suffocating Milan out of the match, when given the chance.
There would be no Barcelona win without Xavi tonight.
Sergio Busquets and Andres Inietsa no doubt deserve recognition for their performance in this one, but left-back Jordi Alba was the man who stole the show from them. And not just because of his last-minute goal, though that certainly did help his cause.
Alba simply shut down the right-hand side of Milan's attack all night long and didn't allow them to get any attacking footholds at all. As a result, he was able to push forward and contribute to Barca's attack—chiming in perfectly with precise passes when needed.
Alba finished with a staggering 93 percent completion rate for his passes on the night and completed the fourth-highest number of passes from any player here.
Moreover, the defender led La Blaugrana in interceptions for the match also—proving to be a genuine handful with the time and space he had on the left.
However, as we all somewhat expected, Lionel Messi definitely stole the show here for the home side—netting two sublime goals to draw Barca level in the first half.
His first goal in particular—an incredible left-footed curling shot that came in amongst a myriad of Milan defenders—changed the entire complexion of this tie and allowed Barca to truly attack their opponents from the opening whistle and force the Rossoneri into defending tirelessly.
If you didn’t see Messi’s goal and are wondering how Milan let him score so early, it wasn’t like Milan LET him: twitter.com/SoccerByIves/s…— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) March 12, 2013
With David Villa ahead of him, Messi was able to thrive in the No. 10 role and find space in front of the Milan defenders that he couldn't find in the first leg. That was key to his second goal, which saw the Argentinian bury the finish into the bottom right corner to bring Barcelona back to 2-2 on aggregate.
Whilst Messi wouldn't score again in the match, his impact could not have been more profound on Barca's attack. He finished with seven shots for the match, 71 passes at an 87 percent completion rate and the man of the match award to cap off a truly incredible night.
His space and vision to hold up the ball for the final goal are the type of things that won't ever show up on a statistics sheet, but they're what make him brilliant. As is the fact that with his two goals, Barcelona are through to the Champions League quarterfinals.
Who were the stars for Barcelona in their incredible Champions League win?
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