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Barcelona vs AC Milan: Why the Second Penalty Decision Ruined the Tie

Frank Wagner@Fw1812Correspondent IApril 4, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 03:  Kevin-Prince Boateng of AC Milan (R) argues with Daniel Alves (2nd R) and Sergio Busquets (3rd R) of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match between FC Barcelona and AC Milan at the Camp Nou stadium on April 3, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

As a preface to this article, let me just say that it was clear from the 180 minutes played in this Champions League quarterfinal that Barcelona posed a much greater threat to AC Milan, than vice versa.

Now that that's over with, let's point out the truth of the matter: that second penalty decision, gifted to Barcelona, ruined the tie.

That's not to say there is a conspiracy, as was suggested by Ibrahimovic in his post-match comments, but rather that it was a poor decision that decided the match.

Let's break down the situation.

With 40 minutes gone in the second leg, the score was one all—if the match ended this way, it would have meant a victory for AC Milan due to away goals.

As Barca were looking to take that corner, a bit of jostling began in the box.

From video replay, it is clear that Alessandro Nesta had a hand full of Sergio Busquests's jersey as the Spaniard was attempting to get into a position to receive the cross.

On any other position on the pitch, this would have been a free kick, no questions—however, in the box, this is almost never called a penalty.

Is that correct?  Should it be this way?

To me, no.  

I, like many others, would like for consistency across the pitch and for shirt-tugging in the box to be called.

However, I would also like consistency in calls.  If something is not going to be penalized all season, including in the first leg of the same tie, there needs to be an appropriate time to begin making those rulings.

Setting that precedent 40 minutes into the second leg of a Champions League quarterfinal that is tied 1-1 is not an appropriate time.

To make matters worse, it is also clear from video replays that Carles Puyol is attempting to "set a pick" on Nesta, stepping in front of him as Busquets goes around.

This play is illegal and is consistently called; sure, an argument could be made that the shirt-tugging took place first, but the whole situation seems even more cloudy given the lack of precedent for the actual call.

Now, let's talk about the actual implications of the call.

From before the tie even began, the roles of the two teams was clear: the overall free-play of Barcelona going against the counter-attacking, defensive prowess of AC Milan.

The tie played out just like the roles would suggest, as Milan defended the Catalans to a nil-nil in the first leg and mostly defended and hit with a counter-attack to start the second leg.

It is an undeniable fact that as this penalty decision was made, Milan had worked themselves into a winning position.

After the penalty, they were forced to chase the match, letting another goal in along the way.

Think of England vs Germany in the World Cup:  if that Lampard goal had gone in, the match is just different.

Would Milan have gone on to win had the penalty not been awarded?  Well, if I were a betting man, I would've still had my money on Barca.

However, I also didn't think Milan would have been able to hold on to the nil-nil at the San Siro.

The common read on the tie, even from those who agree that the penalty decision was poor, was that it was acceptable because Barca were the better team (a similar justification used for the van Persie red card last season).

Just like last season with Arsenal, though, I reject this rationalization.

Could Milan have held on before the penalty?  It was improbable, but yes, they could have.

It's just not enough that Barca proved to be the better side over the two legs.

After all, the better team doesn't always win.

There is such a thing a gutting out a victory.

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