There now follows a new challenge for the greatest team in history. Never before has this Barcelona side gone into a second leg having been held 0-0 in the away leg; therefore never before have they had to play with the trepidation of knowing that the concession of an away goal will double the difficulty of their task. Then again, do this Barcelona team know the meaning of the word trepidation? Such is their well-founded belief in their own means and method that it is difficult to imagine the fear of failure gaining any influence over them. Much has been made of the fact that Inter qualified two seasons ago after mounting a heroic defensive display in the Nou Camp – but what is often overlooked is that Inter actually lost that match and only went through because they had won the home leg 3-1 (playing vibrant attacking football). Milan may have shut Barça out at home but it is difficult to foresee that happening again, partially because tonight's game is not being played on a the moon-like surface of the San Siro and partially because the odds of Barça missing as many chances again are longer than Zlatan Ibrahimovich's list. So I'm saying Barça 3-1 Milan.
Xavi is fit, Isaac Cuneca and Cesc Fabgreas start and Pato is on the bench. For further details, see this:
Barça: Valdes; Dani Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Puyol; Xavi , Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Fabregas, Cuenca
Subs: Pinto, Sanchez, Keita, Alcantara, Pedro, Adriano, Tello
Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Mexes, Antonini; Nocerine, Ambrosini, Boateng, Seedorf; Robinho, Zlatan
Subs: Amelia, Pato, Aquilani, Lopez, Bonera, Emmanuelson, Yepes
Ref: B Kuipers (Holland)
JUNTS! No, not you, them. That's what the Barça fans are spelling out in enormous letters as the teams take to the pitch. Anyone know what it means?
The camera pans to Zlatan just prior to kick-off, perhaps to show us how much he now resembles The Count from Sesame Street. You can almost imagine the Barça players taunting him later with cries of "Three goals, a-ha-ha-haaaaa ..."
1 min: Last week it took Milan 26 seconds to get their first touch. This week it touch them ... 26 seconds! Uncanny! What can it augur? Another 0-0 draw? That, of course, would bring us to extra-time and possibly a shoot-out.
3 min: Iniesta and Messi swap snappy passes before Iniesta wafts miles wide from 16 yardas. That's precisely the sort of sloppy finishing that I said they would not repeat this week. That 0-0 is starting to look scarily likely. In other news, I must thank literally dozens of you for getting in touch to let me know that JUNTS means "TOGETHER". WE are all in this mbm together, brothers and sisters.
5 min: Nocerino sneaks into the right-hand side of the Barça box undetected by anyone except Seedorf, who finds him with a splendid cross-field pass. Nocerino then spanks a low ball across the face of goal, forcing a valiant interception from Mascherano. Then Barcelona tear forward and Abbiati has to make an awkward savce from Messi. Maybe that 0-0 isn't so probable after all.
7 min: What a wonderful build-up! And what a terrible miss by Messi! Dani Alves twinkled down the right before firing a low cross into the centre. Fabregas lifted it over the defence with a delightfully deft first touch. Messi took it down on his chest and then, from six yards, dragged his shot wide! The 0-0 probability-ometer has taken another lurch towards
the red zone.
PENALTY to Barça! They should probably have scored before Antonini - the hero of the first leg - performed an absurd tackle on Messi. A mistake by Mexes sent Barça through and they over-elaborated to make a mess of the chance before Antonini's tackle gave them a reprieve ...
GOAL! Barca 1-0 Milan (Messi, pen, 11') The keeper went the right way but Messi tucked the ball low and hard into the corner. Now let's see what Milan have got going forward.
15 min: Milan are in trouble now. Barça are coasting. Dominating possession and, when Milan do eventually regain the ball, closing down with spoliing speed and effectiveness. Meanwhile, my inbox is creaking under the weight of hundreds of emails bearing the subjects title JUNTS! Thanks again for all of them. But let's change the subject now, eh? Let me get things rolling by telling you a story: today I went to the gym and absent-mindedly left my car open. Not just unlocked, but the door wide open. I only discovered this negligence on my return and was mighty relieved to find that neither the car nor any of the contents had been nicked. From this you could deduce that (a) my local gym is frequented by the most honest people on the planet, (b) my car is an entirely worthless old banger, or (c) I got very, very lucky. Go for B and C and you'd be right. But it all prompts the question: what is the greatest goof that you have ever been fortuante enough to get away with?
18 min: Puyol finds himself with plenty of space at the back post to try to connect with a corner. But despite his Fame! style stretch, he can't quite reach the cross. Barça are clearly not going to jsut sit on their lead, aware that a Milan equaliser puts the visitors ahead on away goals. Barça want another.
20 min: Superb backtracking by Xavi to nick the ball off Robinho and instigate another home attack. This one ends when Fabregas is dispossessed on the edge of the Milan six-yards area as he tried to turn to feed the ball back to Iniesta for a shot. Fabregas is creating lots of problems with his elusive surges from deep.
23 min: Another bout of Barça probing concludes with Ineista nudging the ball through to Messi, who digs out a shot from the edge of the area but it lacked power and was saved easily by Abbiati. Now, on the subject of great unpunished goofs, Matt from Edinburgh writes: "I once drove several miles with my wallet and phone on the front of my car. Somehow they were still there when I arrived at my destination." On the front of your car? How did you not see them?
26 min: Alves tricks his way past Antonini ... Abbiati comes out to smother ... both the keeper and Alves lunge at the ball ... and the keeper gets there first, only to cop a clobbering from the Brazilian. No harm done though, and he quickly gets back to his feet to take the goal kick.
28 min: Freekick to Barcelona, about 28 yards out. Dani Alves fancies his chances, ever. But his low-flying blaster deflects off Piqué and harmlessly wide. "After being lucky enough to watch the 1999 Rugby World Cup Final in Cardiff, I managed to catch a train after a power cut at the station," says Fraser Thomas, recalling a great unpunished goof. "Let's say I was somewhat tired and emotional. I was trying to get back to Leeds and ended up in King's Cross. Next to me on the seat was my empty wallet and next to it about £100 in cash, all my credit cards and train ticket. Nothing was missing." Except an explanation for this freak occurance. Had you, perhaps, wet yourself and therefore ponged so badly that no one dared approach, even to lift your wallet?
GOAL! Barça 1-1 (Nocerino 31') Milan score with their first proper attack! Nocerino slotted it cooly into the net after the dawdling Mascherano played him onside, allowing him to receive Zlatan's pass. A nicely-taken goal but very slack defending by the hosts, who now needs to score at least one more.
34 min: Suddenly Milan are brimming with belief. Nocerino hurtles dsown the right and has both Zlatan and Robinho baying for a pass in the middle ... but he pulls it just behind them both, allowing the stretched Barça defence to recover and boot to safety. "One time when I was heading home from guitar practice, I stopped in a little park to smoke a cigarette," scrawls Michiel Jongsma to introduce his unpunished goof. "For some odd reason I left my guitar (A USA Fender Stratocaster, lefthanded, for those who want to know) standing there, leaning against a tree. It took me a day or two to find out I didn't bring my guitar home and at first I thought I may have left it at the house of my guitar teachers house. It wasn't. A year went by and I eventually bought another guitar. The story became some kind of joke to my friends, even though I was still terribly sad about it. One day, a friend of mine called me and said a man dropped by on his work with the question if anybody had interest in a black left handed stratocaster. He told me he would look up his address after the weekend. I told my parents and they told this story at a birthday party of a friend. Incredibly, a man there said he also knew a guy who found a left handed stratocaster. We asked for the address of this guy, went to his home and he gave me my guitar back." But surely this tale is not finished? It is your duty to go on and record a platinum-selling album of fretboard heroics.
37 min: There's a new vigour to Milan's pressing and now Barcelona, despite still dominating possession, are finding it harder to make inroads.
38 min: A weak long shot from Fabregas gives Abbiati an excuse to lie down for a few seconds.
39 min: Zlatan harasses Piqué into an error but Mascherano gets back to help out his team-mate before the Swede can do any damage.
Another penalty to Barcelona! The referee sparks confusion by awarding a spotkick as a Barcelona corner was being delivered. Nesta and Seedorf are booked for potesting but the replays show that Nesta had a handful of Busquets' shirt.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Milan (Messi, pen, 41') Messi slams the ball to the opposite side to his first strike. Milan shake their heads in disbelief. It was a foul by Nesta but the sort of infringement that usually goes unpunished, except, memorably, when Fernando Hierro was done for doing it to Niall Quinn in 2002. Nesta's booking means he will miss the next match in the unlikely event of Milan progressing.
43 min: Barça bay for yet another penalty as Nesta unwittingly blocks a Fabregas shot with his arm. Moments before that Abbiatai had to scramble across his goal to push away a Messi shot. Barça are tryign to kill this off here. "Goofs? I used to work in a record shop in Camden Town," beings C Young. "I left in a hurry one Friday night... without actually locking the door. Got to the shop at 10:50 the Saturday morning and to my horror the door was wide open! There was nothing missing, no damage, the till still had it's float and there was just one very loudly snoring down-and-outer resting peacefully under the counter. Phew."
45 min: A chance for Milan as they win a freekick about 25 yards out. The ref officiously pacecs out ten yards ... before Zlatan tonks the ball straight into the wall anyway.
Half-time: Well, that was odd. Barça have not been at their best and have again been curiously slack around the box ... except from the penalty spot, and Messi's two strikes from there are the reason they are in front. But Barça have also been a tad ragged at the back so there is still hope for Milan, who just need a goal to regain the advantage.
Goof news: "As fairly footloose 20-somethings, myself, a friend and my girlfriend went into the sarongs business, traveling around the country in my beat-up Peugeot 205, selling them at markets and, most successfully, on Brighton beach front," toots Thomas Jaggers. "On a quiet day we went to visit my mate's dad, who lived then on the most crime-ridden council estate in Wellingborough. When we got into the car to leave, my girlfriend left her bag, with over 3000 pounds of cash sitting on top, on the pavement. About five minutes into our onward journey she reached for her mirror to check how she was looking - thank god for feminine vanity - and realized her bag was gone. We went screeching back to the council estate, where her bag was still sitting exactly where we left it."
On the penalty: "That was the wrong call on the second penalty - it was not a penalty according to the rules as the ball wasn't in play when the 'foul' was committed," fumes Luke Mason. "He was already going over when the corner was taken. As such the right call would have been to retake the corner." Not so sure about that: the replays suggest that although Nesta did begin grabbing Busquets prior to the kick being taken, Busquets did not go down until the ball was in the air.
More goofs: "To deflect from my own colossal blundering, I'll tell you a story about my parents, who once left my brother (an infant at the time) under the table at a truck-stop diner in British Columbia," snitches Mark Hudson. "After 45 minutes of blissfully quiet driving, my mother noticed that they only had one of their two kids, and they returned to the truck-stop. My dad lifted the tablecloth, reached under the table, which was occupied by another group of diners at the time, and retrieved the still-sleeping kid, and zipped out without a word. Lucky break."
46 min: Milan set the second half in motion. Meanwhile, little-known emailer Cathal Nagle has some advice for Pep Guardiola." I've a wee observation about the formation tonight. Three at the back is causing all kinds of unnecessary worry and confusion for Barcelona. Puyol and Mascherano are getting pulled in on-top of Pique and Busquets is dropping too deep creating space in midfield. Bring on Adriano, switch to a 4-3-3 and this game is as good as over, Barcelona are that superior. Continue with this recklessness and anything could happen."
47 min: It's a bold start to the half by Milan, who throw many players forward and cause momentary panic in the Barça box, especially when Zlatan went down under (fair) Mascherano challenge and then Robinho did likewise under an equally fair one from Dani Alves.
49 min: Boateng pulls down Messi. Xavi curls a fine 28-yard freekick just wide.
50 min: Corner to Milan after more enterprising attacking: another goal for them is certainly not out of the question given how many jitters they are provoking. This corner, however, comes to nothing.
52 min: Tremendous play by Abate to intercept the ball in his own box and then race forward 60 yards and feed Boateng, who earns a corner. Milan take it short and then cross from a more positive angle, causing difficulty to Valdes ... but Ambrosini had ventured offside.
GOAL! Barcelona 3-1 Milan (Iniesta 53') A stroke of luck for the Catalans as a Messi shot deflects off Mexes and into the path of Iniesta, who takes it down deftly before slotting past Abbiati from close range.
56 min: Messi balloons a shot wide from 20 yards. "Fouls are of course when the holding happens not when the player falls," replies Luke Mason to our half-time discussion of Barcelona's second penalty. Not necessarily: Nesta performed a sequence of little tugs - the ref may have decided to play the advantage until the one that sent Busquets down.
59 min: Boateng charges down the left but can't elude Dani Alves, who sticks the ball out for a corner. "About seven years ago I had a battered old K-reg VW Golf," announces Brad McMillan as he recalls a horrendous goof with which he got away. "The battery was dying, so I got into the habit of jumping into the car and turning the engine over for 20 minutes every night at about midnight, listening to the radio, attempting to 'keep it warm' so the car would still start in the morning. After a couple of weeks, on a Friday night, I went to someone's leaving do in a pub not 10 minutes walk from my house. I had a skinful but, remembering I had work the following morning, I dutifully got in the car and switched on the engine. I was woken an hour later by an angry looking policeman who was pulling me out of my car and slapping handcuffs on. The engine was running and he radio was still playing, and the car was parked in a little cul-de-sac where I lived. One of the neighbours had become suspicious that I'd tried to top myself and called the police. Having been arrested and measured at 3 and a half times the legal driving limit, I spent an extremely sobering night in a cell. I stood to lose my job if given a driving ban and my one phone call in the morning was having to pull a sickie at work, hoping I would somehow wriggle out of this. Unbelievably, I was let off without charge. Following a recorded interview in the morning, the officer called my then housemate who reeled of this story unprompted, and the police took pity on me, believing I had no intention of driving anywhere. The moral of the story? Don't delay replacing your car battery."
61 min: Milan change: Seedorf off, Anfield legend Alberto Aquilani on. It seems that everywhere we lok these days we find evidence of Liverpool's botched transfer policy.
62 min: Robinhio charges down an attempted clearance by Piqué and suddenly finds himself racing through on goal. Valdes rushes out to block his shot ... and then the ref intervenes to give Barça a freekick on the grounds that Robinho charged the ball down with his arm: that's frightfully harsh given that Piqué booted the ball at him from about a yard.
63 min: Barcelona change: Xavi off, Thiago Alcantara on.
66 min: Mascherano booked for a foul (yes, I did have that phrase on stand-by and just pasted it in). He actually won the ball off Robinho but slid in with his studs showing and a pernickety ref likes this one is never going to let that go. "Much as I like Nesta - I think he was the claissiest centre-half going for at least 5 years - he can hardly complain about shirt-pulling," declares brendan Murphy. "He virtually invented it in its modern form and he's got away with it far more than he's been penalised for it. I'm amused by the idea that the Milan team look confused that the ref gave a foul for shirt pulling!"
68 min: Dani Alves scampers forward ... Milan back off until the Brazilian is in shooting range ... but he takes them by surprise by trying to slip a pass through to Messi instead. Alas, that took Messi by surprise too and the greatest player in the world fails to get it under control.
69 min: This time there is nothing wrong with Messi's control as he takes down a Busquets pass expertly and threads the ball through to Alcantara, who should make it 4-1 to Barcelona ... but instead slides his six-yard shot wide!
70 min: Milan substitution: Boateng off, Pato on.
73 min:Spectacular diving header by Aquilani. Well, a spectacular dive ... he didn't actually meet Zlatan's cross with his head because Dani Alves cleared in extremis.
76 min: Barceloan change: Adriano on, Piqué off. "I was driving along the motorway here in Canada with a Hell's Angel following me on his bike, complete with odd looking lights," recalls Simon. "I stated speeding up and slowing down, to try and shake him off, as he was glued behind me, and kind of unnerving me. After 20 minutes he sped up and pulled alongside me, at which point I realised he was a cop. He motioned for me to pull over, and asked me what the hell I was doing. He had been indicating with his lights for me to pull over the whole time. When I told him, he said in 25 years he'd never heard that excuse, and let me off. I'd been speeding, apparently."
79 min: This match appears to be petering out, with Milan showing no sign of staging a late comeback. So gather around this virtual camp fire and listen to Ismael Cekem tell you about a goof he got away with. "This goof is from İstanbul, Turkey," scene-sets Ismael. "After an intercity bus trip that ended in the early hours, I took a cab ride home, carrying with me a small bag containing some books, one of which was an original print given to me for translation. I had to return the original after I made copies. When I got home I realised I forgot the bag in the cab. Then I took another cab and went where I got off the bus, to search for the cab. As expected, there was none around at the time. So I waited about half an hour and took another ride in desperation. As a last hope, I figured I could ask this driver for help. I told him what had happened, the conversation went as follows: "Can you remember the plate number? No. The company name written on the cab? No. Can you recognise the driver if you see him? No. Were there anything to identify you, in the bag, passport, driver's license, ID card? No." Then he said "Even the police can't find it if they tried, but there's no use in asking them anyway. Your only chance is to go back there, try to find a cab station and ask them. But it's best you go home and sleep over it." By this time the cab got close to home; I decided to take my only chance. We went back there, paid cab money the third time in space of two hours, and started searching for a cab station. Luckily, I found one with two cabs lined up. I approached the one in the front, told him about my misfortune and he started asking exactly the same questions as the previous driver! Of course I gave the same answers; so I know at least two cab drivers are aware of my mental faculties :). Suddenly, I remembered the song and the singer that played in the cab's radio at my first ride, and told him about it. He stopped for a moment, asked me the time and place of my ride again, and them opened the back door. There it was, rolled under the seat."
81 min: Tiki-taka, tiki-taka, tiki-taka .... Barcelona are rubbing it in.
83 min: Pato appears to have picked up an injury .. so he trudges off to be replaced by Maxi Lopez.
85 min: Messi tries to slalom his way through the entire Milan defence ... and he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for the meddling Mexes.
87 min: Barcelona are threatening a fourth: Dani Alves curls a fine cross into the box towards Messi, but Abbiati dives full-length to tip it off the foot of the Argentinian.
88 min: Crazy finish by Adriano, who drags the ball four yards when clean through on goal.
89 min: Milan try to finish with a flourish. Valdes foils them by haring off his line to beat Robinho to a through-ball. meanwhile, here's a good idea from Richard Davies: "Why not produce perforated shirts that come apart if you pull at them?"
90+1 min: Mexes booked for bringing down Messi.
90+2 min: Messi curls the freekick over the bar. There'll be no hat-trick for him tonight. "This is a goof from a couple of years back," reports Ashwini from New Delhi. "Me and my family had gone out in the evening for some shopping. We were expecting friends over for dinner that night. On the way back, we got stuck in traffic and were running late. When we did arrive home, we found the door of the house wide open and our friends sitting inside. Apparently I had forgotten to lock it and it was open all along. Thankfully no damage done." You mean your freinds hadn't thrashed your home?
Full-time: Barcelona deservedly advance to the semi-finals on a score of 3-1, as predicted. They could meet Chelsea in the semi-final and if they do, the Londoners will take hope from the fact that Barça looked quite brittle at the back tonight. But fearsome going forward, obviously. Thanks for all your goofs. Bye.