PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

A historic meeting between two giants of European football promised thrills, but perhaps no one expected so many. FC Barcelona overcame AC Milan 3-2 in a really attacking, and thrilling, match that was resolved thanks to goals from Van Bommel (o.g.), Messi (pen) and Xavi, which meant that Guardiola's team were never behind in the game. Mentally, it wasn't easy for Barça, who saw Ibrahimovic and Boateng equalise twice in a game that, regarding shots on goal, 3 for AC Milan against Barca's 8, could have ended with a much wider margin in favour of the away team.

So, FC Barcelona come away from the San Siro with the group leadership mathematically assured, and with BATE Borisov still to visit the Camp Nou, in the week that Barça have to go and play the Clásico, against Real Madrid, in the Santiago Bernabeu.

End-to-end match

From the start at the San Siro the fans witnessed a vibrant match. Crazy stuff. Barça went into the game very boldly, starting with a 3-4-3 formation that in attack looked more like 3-3-4 with Cesc and Thiago driving down the middle, and Messi and Villa opening up the wings. The Italians, sitting deep at the back, threatened on the counter-attack, and Prince, Robinho and Seedorf, always looked for the same player to finish off their good work: Ibrahimovic. No quarter was given, and in the first move of real danger, Barça made it 1-0, when Van Bommel scored an own goal after great ball winning by Thiago, and a Keita cross which Xavi was waiting for.

After the first goal, the match went crazy. Robinho missed a clear chance from three metres, very similar to the chance that Messi missed at the other end, moments later. Before Messi's chance, however, Milan had already equalised with a goal from former Barcelona player, Ibrahimovic, from a Seedorf pass. Barça’s play during the match wasn’t typical of their normal style; oftentimes they were fragile at the back and found that they had the numerical advantage in attack. Each Barça attack created a scoring opportunity but Abbiati, one of the best players of the first half, did well to limit the Azulgranas.

Messi regains the lead

In one of Barça's many chances, Aquilani brought down Xavi inside the area. Penalty. Aquilani, who had already received a yellow card, escaped being sent off, as the referee showed the yellow card to Nesta. Messi had to score his penalty twice, as the referee deemed that the first time Leo had stopped his forward movement. As if they were the last minutes of the game, Milan poured forward towards Valdes' goal in the final stretch of the first half, in which Puyol and Abidal also received yellow cards. At the break, an electric 2-1 lead for Barça at the San Siro.

More goals after the restart

There was certainly no relaxation after the break. Villa and Messi had good chances to score the third, but AC Milan again equalised, following a brilliant individual play from Boateng. Barça didn't collapse after this second blow against them. With more control than in the first half, a long period of Barça possession ended with a brilliant Messi through ball to Xavi, who made no mistake, to make it 2-3. Justice was done in Milan, where Guardiola's team take away a valuable prize: first place in Group H.