BARCELONA: Lionel Messi scored two first-half penalties in a 3-1 win over AC Milan at the Nou Camp on Tuesday to propel holders Barcelona to a fifth successive Champions League semi-final.
Messi’s brace in the quarter-final second leg took him to 51 Champions League goals – at 24 he became the youngest player to achieve the landmark – and a record total of 14 for this season, bettering the previous mark of 12 held by himself and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
The Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri and players hit out at the referee over the penalty decisions but Barca coach Pep Guardiola claimed that they were clear cut.
“They were two penalties, if you pull someone in the area then that is what happens,” said Guardiola. “We deserved to go through. To have reached the semi-final for the fifth time is something special and shows the strength of the club. To achieve it for one or two years is excellent but to do it for five is really amazing.”
However Allegri felt that his side was unlucky.
“The penalties were decisive and the second which was very debatable,” he said. “It’s never easy to play against Barca but overall they deserved to win.”
Referee gave Barca helping hand: Ibrahimovic
AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic sparked controversy after the match when he suggested that the holders receive a helping hand from referees.
“We had managed to draw level and then a penalty was given again when the ball wasn’t even in play,” said Ibrahimovic. “It was a very strange decision and ruined the game. Perhaps there was a push but if the ball isn’t in play then you cannot whistle. I am starting to understand what Mourinho means when he talks about coming here to play against them. I have seen it at first hand now.”
Rummenigge eyes historic treble for Bayern
Meanwhile, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said Bayern Munich are bidding for a historic treble of titles after their 2-0 win over Marseille saw them cruise into the semi-finals.
Croatia striker Ivica Olic netted both of Bayern’s goals in the first-half to seal a 4-0 quarter-final win on aggregate on Tuesday. Munich’s Allianz Arena will host the final on May 19 with Bayern in contention for the treble as they face champions Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final on May 12 and are currently just three points behind them in the Bundesliga.
Coach Jupp Heynckes said he was just relieved to be in the last four having started with stars Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez — the goal-scorers from the first-leg — on the bench and Bastian Schweinsteiger suspended.
“That is a big success for us,” he said. “We are playing every three days and I needed to use the squad to spare some of our players. We used several players who haven’t played so much this season and it was a positive aspect that they came in and did well.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2012.