What we saw at the Camp Nou tonight was evidence that the best team doesn't always win. The 2-2 draw between Barça and AC Milan was a fine example of how what can happen in 88 minutes is not always enough to win a game. The Catalans suffered defeat to an Italian side that scored within seconds of the kickoff and then again just before the final whistle. In between, FC Barcelona were the vastly superior team, with Messi outstanding and Pedro and Villa getting a goal each, but none of that was enough to get their Champions League campaign off to a winning start.
The two dropped points were not the only negative news for Barça fans to digest, for Iniesta will be out through injury for four weeks. But Barça have overcome much greater difficulties in the past, and their European challenge is still very much alive.
Pato the early bird
It only took 25 seconds for Pato to score the fourth fastest goal in UCL history, losing his marker brilliantly and slotting the ball through Valdés' legs. The Camp Nou was stunned. Barça hadn't even touched the ball and they were already playing catch-up. It was going to be an upward struggle, and against an AC Milan side that defends exquisitely, but Barça didn't panic and patiently created a series of chances that visiting keeper Abbiati did well to deal with.
The Argentinian was causing the most problems for the Milan stopper, and having already hit the post from a free kick, on the half hour he combined skill and speed to leave rossoneri defenders Nesta and Abate standing before laying the ball on a plate for Pedro, who wasn't going to make the same mistake that he made at Anoeta and made it 1-1.
The half ended with two players being replaced due to injury. For AC Milan, Boateng made way for Ambrosini, while for Barcelona, Iniesta was replaced by Cesc after picking up an unfortunate injury while sprinting down the left wing.
Barça stepped things up a gear after the break, and were soon celebrating their second. Villa placed the ball for a long-range free kick and then sent an absolute humdinger of a shot past Abbiati, the ideal way to make up for his error that led to Barça conceding an unexpected second goal at Anoeta on Saturday.
Puyol and Afellay back
Villa's goal did little to awaken any new ambitions among AC Milan's veteran set of players. Despite creating the occasional danger on the counter attack in the first half, the Italians found the Barça possession game far more difficult to deal with now that it was them who needed to score. It looked like Barcelona's first Champions League game of the season was going to end with three thoroughly deserved points, and as well as the result, the fans were also able to celebrate the returns of Puyol and Afellay from long injuries.
Thiago Silva delivers late blow
But against Italian teams, and especially AC Milan, it is never a good idea to celebrate until victory really is certain, and despite the lack of chances they were creating, there was always the danger that they might sneak a late equaliser. And following an injury time corner, for which Puyol was booked for protesting, Thiago Silva rose to beat the Barça defence and head home a last gasp leveller. The game ended as it had begun, and despite playing the best football for the 88 minutes in between, Barça came out of this with the same reward as their Italian guests: one point that really should have been three.