herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Barca to draw on positives

Barcelona boss Guardiola happy with stalemate at San Siro in quest to defend title

BARCELONA will have to beat Milan at home after being held to a goalless draw at the San Siro last night.

The reigning European Champions were frustrated by a defensive performance of the type Italian teams were once renowned for. Stirring contributions from Luca Antonini, Alessandro Nesta and Christian Abbiati kept the tie alive.

Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, refused to complain about Milan's approach.

"To win the Champions League, you have to overcome a lot of things, that's what makes some sportsmen better than others," Guardiola said.

"Things happen and you have to overcome them."

Guardiola had few complaints, except a pitch that was cutting up incessantly during the game.

"If UEFA want teams to put on a spectacle, they have to overcome problems like this," he said. "The fact that Milan are happy with a 0-0 draw is a big compliment for us."

Milan had their best chance in the game's opening minutes. Their policy, of trying to press Barcelona into an early and costly mistake, has been tried in the past by Real Madrid and Manchester United.

It nearly worked. Just three minutes in, Milan won the ball back, and Kevin-Prince Boateng's shot was blocked by Gerard Pique. The ball flew up to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who headed it across to an unmarked Robinho. With more time and space than he realised, the Brazilian forward's rushed volley soared over the bar.

CHANCE

Milan did not get a better chance. Barcelona soon settled into dominance, holding the ball inside the hosts' half, all of it directed by Lionel Messi. The Argentine was the most dangerous player, along with right-back Dani Alves. Abbiati, busy all night, had to save from Alves before pushing the rebound away from Messi's feet. The Milan goalkeeper was fortunate not to concede a penalty, though, when Alexis Sanchez went down near the byline.

Barcelona continued to pass, and a precise exchange between Xavi and Messi ended with the former shooting at Abbiati. Sanchez then raced through on goal only to be brilliantly tackled by Antonini.

The second half was much more competitive.

Milan were no longer content to sit back, instead pushing further up and denying Barca quite as much time on the ball.

Cristian Tello and Pedro were brought on by the visitors to add some more incision in the final third but Barcelona's two best chances, uncharacteristically, came from Carles Puyol headers from corners.

When Abbiati palmed Messi's shot away with three minutes left it seemed certain that Tello would score, but Antonini's brave block saved Milan.

"We did what we had to do in attack and defence, it's a good result against Barcelona," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said after the game.

"We had some good chances which we didn't take early on and, after 25 minutes, Barcelona began playing well."

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