May 24, 2013
Surgical Xavi stitches up brave AC Milan
Xavi produced a goal of surgical precision to give Barcelona a 3-2 win over AC Milan on Wednesday in an enthralling Champions League match which also featured Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring against the Catalan club he left acrimoniously last year.
Milan twice came from behind, through Ibrahimovic and a stunning Kevin-Prince Boateng effort, as they replied to a Mark van Bommel own goal and a twice-taken Lionel Messi penalty in a match which was little more than a friendly.
Both teams had already qualified for the last 16 with two matches to spare. Barcelona's win put them five points clear at the top of Group H and ensured they would finish in first place.
There was an element of controversy about Messi's goal and his first effort was disallowed because he stopped at the end of his run-up and feigned to kick the ball - a practice recently outlawed by FIFA.
The Argentine was booked for his trouble but he still dispatched the second penalty shot with ease.
Xavi's 63rd-minute winner had Barcelona written all over it.
Messi managed to pick out the playmaker with a measured diagonal pass which he slipped between four Milan defenders. Xavi took the pass in his stride and slotted past Christian Abbiati.
His strike came nine minutes after the best goal of the evening when Milan's Boateng collected a high pass from Ibrahimovic, flicked the ball between the legs of the bemused Eric Abidal and found a gap between Victor Valdes and the near post.
Barcelona remain unbeaten this season in all competitions, although coach Pep Guardiola's response was muted.
"We had a lot of possession and created a lot of chances," he said. "It is important to have won here, Milan were happy with their performance, so we are all happy."