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Barca qualify for Champions League semifinals

Spain,Sports, Wed, 04 Apr 2012 IANS

Madrid, April 4 (IANS) FC Barcelona produced a convincing display to defeat AC Milan 3-1 in the return leg at the Camp Nou of their Champions League football quarterfinal.


The result means Barcelona will play either Chelsea or Benfica in the semi-finals of the competition, but they had to work hard in what was an entertaining game against AC Milan, who put up stiff resistance against possibly the best side in the world, Xinhua reported.


Barcelona and Milan had produced a total of nine goals in their two previous meetings in the group stage and Barca coach Pep Guardiola had advised at his pre-game press conference that Milan would likely score in this game.


He began with Carles Puyol at left back and Javier Mascherano partnered Gerard Pique in central defence, while winger Isaac Cuenca was a surprise inclusion in the playing eleven, along with Cesc Fabregas, who had overcome a back problem.


Meanwhile, Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich led the Milan attack on his first return to the Camp Nou since leaving the club almost two years ago.


The first 10 minutes confirmed it was going to be an open game with Ibrahimovich denied by a last gasp Pique tackle and Messi firing wide with his right foot, before he took advantage of an error by Philippe Mexes to race into the Milan area, where he was brought down by Massimo Ambrosini.


Although Christian Abiatti got a touch, Messi dispatched the resulting penalty to put Barca ahead.


That was the sign for Barca to take control of the game, although they failed to create clear cut chances and Guardiola's prediction came true after 32 minutes when Antonio Nocerino levelled the score after beating the offside trap.


Now it was Barca who needed to score as a result of the away goal and on 39 minutes they were given a penalty after Alessandro Nesta was penalized for pulling Sergio Busquets' shirt. Messi sent Abiatti the wrong way to put Barca back in front.


There was still time for nerves before the break as Ibrahimovich hit a dangerous free kick against the Barca wall from 25 meters out.


Andres Iniesta gave Barca some breathing space in the 54th minute. Once again Messi was involved as his shot was deflected into Iniesta's path and the midfielder made no mistake from close range.


There were few chances in the remainder of the game as Milan appeared to accept their fate, as Barca reached the last four of the Champions League for the fifth consecutive year.


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