The matchup between two of the most storied programs in the world did not disappoint as AC Milan was able to upset Barcelona 2-0.
This was the first leg of the Round of 16 for the UEFA Champions League, and the two will finish the round on March 12 at Camp Nou.
Defense ruled supreme in the first half as neither side was able to get too many scoring chances. Xavi is the only player who was able to get even a shot on goal, while Barcelona held possession for most of the half.
Things changed early on after intermission as both clubs were much more aggressive.
AC Milan was able to finally break through at the 56-minute mark, although the goal was mired in controversy. After Stephan El Shaarawy drew a foul deep in the offensive zone, the ensuing free kick appeared to go off the arm of a Milan player.
Regardless, Kevin-Prince Boateng stayed alert and fired a shot past the keeper into the back of the net to take a 1-0 lead.
Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl also thought it was a foul, but the score remained:
Grant Wahl @GrantWahl
Kevin-Prince Boateng puts Milan ahead of Barcelona 1-0 after a scramble. Looked like a Milan handball beforehand not called.2/20/2013, 8:59:38 PM
The visiting team tried to put pressure on to tie the match. Unfortunately for them, AC Milan's back line was outstanding.
Despite controlling the ball for over 70 percent of the match, the offense was able to get only a few good looks at the net.
Milan then got a huge second goal in the 81st minute. Stephan El Shaarawy flicked a beautiful pass to a running Sulley Muntari, who was able to finish with a goal.
This 2-0 advantage does not quite eliminate Barcelona from the bracket, but it will be tough to come back next month.
The Spanish club entered the Round of 16 as one of the favorites to win the Champions League. It has built up a 12-point lead while dominating La Liga, and was just as impressive in the first phase of the UCL.
Behind some of the best players in the world, they simply had to perform up to expectations to win the prestigious tournament. However, it now seems like it will be an uphill battle to advance to the quarterfinals.
Once again AC Milan proved that it will not go away that easily. After a poor start in Serie A, the club has come back to third place and is still challenging for a league title.
Reaching the Round of 16 is also impressive after surviving the group with Malaga, Zenit St. Petersburg and Anderlecht.
If the Italian club can avoid disappointment on the road in the second leg, it should advance deep into the championship.
Stephan El Shaarawy, AC Milan: B+
The young star missed the club's last match with a knee injury, but he fought hard to be ready for this important showdown.
Unfortunately, Stephan El Shaarawy was far from his best.
Against Barcelona, he was constantly offsides and was unable to take advantage of what appeared to be a one-on-one opportunity with the goaltender in the first half.
Still, he kept his focus and impacted the match late with a nice assist.
There are many great performances ahead for the 20-year-old forward. In this match, he proved he has the resiliency to succeed at this level.
Kevin-Prince Boateng, AC Milan: A
Although KevinPrince Boateng was looking to take on a bigger role with his club this season, he had been relatively unsuccessful as a scorer.
The German had taken 69 shots in league play this season, only scoring one goal. This is not a great ratio.
Fortunately, in this match he was able to get the ball in the box and put it where it needed to be on the right side of the net.
He was also very active throughout the match and was one of the most important players on the pitch on the day.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona: C
It is obvious that there are no better goalscorers in the world at this point than Lionel Messi.
During the league season, he leads La Liga with 35 goals, which is 29 more than anyone else on the roster.
Of course, this causes a bit of dependence on the Argentine player.
The club tried to get Messi the ball throughout the match, but he was unable to turn his touches into goals, and the squad suffered because of it.
Against a top opponent like AC Milan, Barcelona cannot afford to get this little production from its best player.
Sergio Busquets, Barcelona: B-
AC Milan did not get too many scoring opportunities during the match, but Sergio Busquets did not help when the other side attacked.
The defender was responsible for a few fouls, plus a yellow card. The latter drew some criticism from Bleacher Report's Dan Levy:
Dan Levy @DanLevyThinks
Only Busquets could slide in late and dangerously then pretend like HE was the one who was fouled. He should get two yellows on that play.2/20/2013, 8:55:36 PM
Usually, Barcelona's offense helps make up for any mistakes on the defensive end. Unfortunately, that did not happen on Wednesday.
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