Record-breaking Messi sends Barça into semis
BARCELONA - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi adds more records to his outstanding career by bringing his goal tally to 51 in the Champions League and being the youngest player to reach the half-century mark. AFP photoLionel Messi scored two first-half penalties in a 3-1 win over AC Milan at the Nou Camp on April 4 to propel holder Barcelona to a fifth successive Champions League semifinal.
Messi’s brace in the quarterfinal second leg took him to 51 Champions League goals - at 24 the youngest player to achieve the half-century landmark - and a record total this season of 14, bettering the previous mark held by himself and Ruud van Nistelrooy of 12.
Andres Iniesta’s well-taken goal early in the second-half wrapped up the match and the team will face wither Chelsea or Benfica in the semifinals as it bids to become the first team to retain the trophy since it became the Champions League in the 1992/93 season.
Antonio Nocerino had pulled a goal back for Milan to level briefly in the first-half but in the end there was no stopping Barcelona emulating the Real Madrid side of the 1950’s in reaching five successive semifinals. The win saw Barça comfortably through to the semis after a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Italy.
The Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri and players hit out at the referee over the penalty decisions but Barça 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 and I was very happy with the performance for the way that we were able to control the game especially after the third goal.
“To have reached the semifinal for the fifth time is something special and shows the strength of the club. I feel the same about my players whether they had qualified for the next round or not because they have already achieved so much they do not need to do more to prove themselves to me.
“We were against a team with a lot of experience and prestige so it was never going to be easy and there were always going to be talking points but they were two penalties and we did not complain about the ones that weren’t given in the first leg.”
However Allegri felt that his side were unlucky.
“The penalties were decisive and the second which was very debatable. It is never easy to play against Barça but overall they deserved to win,” he said.