• Champions League

Magnificent Milan hailed by Allegri

ESPN staff
February 20, 2013

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri hailed his players after they produced an outstanding performance to beat Barcelona 2-0 at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the first leg of their Champions League clash.

Strikes from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari did the trick as Milan prevented Barcelona from finding any kind of attacking rhythm and took a well-deserved lead into the second leg.

A delighted Allegri said his team had limited their illustrious visitors - but warned that they would face another tough challenge at the Camp Nou.

"The lads played well in defensive terms and didn't let them near our penalty area," he told Mediaset. "We know Barcelona kept possession for about 65% of the time, but we had five or six very favourable situations where we got the final pass wrong.

"My players deserved this evening, as did the club and the president. We can put this result aside now, knowing the second leg will be very difficult. The players did well in intercepting passes and staying tight. We limited Leo Messi, and above all did very well to stop the balls that they tend to put behind the midfielders.

"At the moment, this result is not enough to qualify us, so we hope to get a positive result at the Camp Nou, too. In order to win these games, you need everyone to sacrifice themselves and work hard. We kept Barcelona out of our penalty area and they didn't have a single real shot on goal.

"The players deserved this victory, without question. Perhaps we were lucky with the ricochet on the first goal - but these things happen during a game."

Goalkeeper Christian Abbiati - who did not have a difficult save to make all night - said the second leg would be "another battle" and said: "We are all happy to have achieved a great victory against a huge team. We made it very difficult for Barcelona. We prepared well for this game, and the coach told us exactly what to do. I compliment my teammates - even the strikers came back to help out and put Barcelona under pressure.

"We didn't allow Barça any opportunities. We knew they would keep possession, so adapted to that and focused on blocking off their through passes."

And midfielder Riccardo Montolivo said everything had gone according to plan, explaining: "It went well. We were prepared for them to keep possession, and therefore we shut down the spaces to make it sterile."

Barca assistant manager Jordi Roura, standing in for the unwell Tito Vilanova, said his players "fully believe we can turn this around" but admitted: "We struggled to reach their goal - obviously, this wasn't our best game. Although we had problems, I think the result is excessive. They found a couple of opportunities and scored from them, which now makes things tricky for us. The comeback will be difficult - it is two goals - but we have confidence, for our players, for our stadium. It will be a different story in the second leg."

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique pulled no punches, telling UEFA his team had suffered "a really bad result" and had not played well.

"We cannot make excuses - not for the pitch nor the referee," he said. "When they scored first, we lost control. This is a difficult place to play, and Milan are a club with a big history. Obviously we will try to win the second leg, and we must improve and learn from this evening. We will look to respond with one of those magical nights at the Camp Nou."

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