Reuters: A fired-up Lionel Messi answered his critics by inspiring Barcelona to a sensational Champions League comeback against AC Milan on Tuesday with two goals in a 4-0 home win to help them reach the quarter-finals.
A rampant Barca, all-but written off after a surprise 2-0 reverse at Milan’s San Siro stadium in last month’s last 16, first leg, came storming back at the seven-times European Cup winners to progress 4-2 on aggregate after a memorable night.
They looked to Messi to spark a fight-back and the four-times World Player of the year did not disappoint with a scintillating display backed up by midfield trio Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets and fullbacks Jordi Alba and Daniel Alves.
Barca were ahead at the Nou Camp in the fifth minute through Messi’s brilliant curling effort and the Argentina forward, who has suffered rare criticism in recent weeks, levelled the tie on aggregate five minutes before halftime with a low drive.
Barcelona ruthlessly dominated, with Milan struggling to get the ball out of their own half for long periods, and David Villa struck a third 10 minutes after the break before Jordi Alba netted a breakaway goal in the second minute of added time.
Before Alba’s effort finally killed the tie, Milan had pressed forward looking for the goal that could have sent them through and there was a palpable release of tension in the giant arena when the Spain fullback’s shot hit the back of the net before the celebrations began in earnest.
Barca’s win makes them the first team in the Champions League to ever overturn a two-goal first leg deficit without the benefit of an away goal while only four sides had successfully fought back from a deficit of more than one goal.
Roared on by close to 90,000 supporters, Barca harried, and hassled Milan from the start.
It was his 58th Champions League goal, putting him two clear of former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy in second place on the scoring chart behind Raul, another former Real forward, who leads on 71.