Champions League: Xavi’s winner seals top spot for Barcelona

November 24th, 2011 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

AC Milan Rome, Nov 24 (IANS) Barcelona scraped through their tie against AC Milan 3-2 at San Siro to secure the top spot of their Champions League group.

The hosts equalised twice through Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin-Prince Boateng after Barca led after Mark van Bommel’s own goal and Lionel Messi’s 31st-minute penalty here Wednesday.

But Pep Guardiola’s side wrapped up a hard fought win through Xavi’s finish just after the hour mark as Barca, who like Milan had already qualified for the last 16, ensured top spot with a game to spare.

“We are happier compared to the last game,” Guardiola said after the thrilling game, referring to their 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou, Xinhua reported.

“Coming here to San Siro to win and putting in a performance like this was not easy. It’s always a pleasure to play in this stadium, especially against Milan, who are one of the most successful clubs in the world,” he said.

His Milan counterpart Massimiliano Allegri also took much pride from his side’s performance.

“I think it was important for us to play a game like this, facing this team with open football to see what level we are at,” he said.

“We leave this match with a defeat, perhaps deservedly, but with greater self-confidence than before. Barcelona played for 95 minutes the way they always do, while we created many dangers for them,” he said.

Barca went in front after 14 minutes when Seydou Keita sent in a low ball from the left, Milan midfielder Van Bommel could only divert the ball into the back of his own net.

Robinho should have equalised in the 19th minute after superb work by Ibrahimovic and Boateng, he spooned his first-time effort over Victor Valdes’ bar from close range.

The leveller came moments later, Clarence Seedorf found himself with space on the left and when Ibrahimovic made the run, he found his team-mate with a clever short pass with the outside of his boot. Ibrahimovic made no mistake, nicking the ball under Valdes to put his side level.

After Xavi was bundled over by Aleberto Aquilani in front of goal, Messi coolly slotted in the penalty.

Boateng put Milan level once more early in the second half, taking a loose ball in his stride brilliantly before blasting it past Valdes.

Barca took the lead for a third time in the 63rd minute as Messi dissected the Milan defence with precision a pass to Xavi who timed his run perfectly to prod home.

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