By Joe Short
AC Milan shocked the footballing and betting world on Wednesday night with a convincing and controlled 2-0 victory over Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.
Kevin-Prince Boateng opened the scoring before a magnificent strike from Sulley Muntari sealed the tie for the Rossoneri, who must now go to the Nou Camp and defend for their lives against arguably the best attacking unit in football.
But who really ran the show for Milan on Wednesday? Footy Quiz fans who like to bet on football may be aware Barca had more possession, but which team had the most shots?
Milan did, 8-6, proving that for all Barca’s ball work they struggled to penetrate the Italian back line.
Barca certainly tried to attack but were caught offside just twice as the Milan defence stood firm around their own box. One would expect the twinkle-toed Lionel Messi or eagle-eyed Andreas Iniesta would feel much of the brunt of Milan’s strong defenders, but who was involved in the most fouls over the match?
Not Messi, not Iniesta, not even the wily Xavi. No, Kevin-Prince Boateng played his part up front for Milan, holding the ball up well and leading Barcelona’s defenders into silly tackles.
Boateng was involved in seven fouls – committing four himself – which shows just how much the ball went through him as Milan built up attacks.
Meanwhile Giampaolo Pazzini – Milan’s exiled centre-forward since Mario Balotelli’s arrival this winter – was largely left alone by the Barca defenders and was recognised as a meagre threat in comparison with Boateng.
He didn’t contribute to any of Milan’s four major attacks, while Muntari and Stephan El Shaarawy proved central figures in the team going forward.
What coach Massimiliano Allegri may do at the Nou Camp therefore is stifle his midfield and play Boateng up front on his own. Clearly his Milan side can handle Barca and sting them on the break, and with Pazzini offering no value whatsoever his place in the team is questionable.