BARCELONA — Lionel Messi sent more records tumbling as holders Barcelona beat AC Milan 3-1 on Tuesday to reach the Champions League semi-finals.
The 24-year-old Messi reached the
50-goal mark in Europe’s premier club competition with an early penalty at Camp Nou that also saw him break the record he jointly held with Ruud van Nistelrooy for most goals in a Champions League season.
After Antonio Nocerino had equalised to make it 1-1 and put Milan ahead on away goals, Messi claimed a second penalty to match former Milan striker Jose Altafini’s 1962-1963 record of 14 goals scored in one European Cup campaign.
A second-half goal from Andres Iniesta completed victory for Pep Guardiola’s men, who became the first team to reach five consecutive semi-finals in the competition since the great Real Madrid team of the late 1950s.
Barça will bid to reach a third final in four seasons against either Chelsea or Benfica, who met at Stamford Bridge late yesterday with the English team leading 1-0 on aggregate.
Xavi and Cesc Fabregas both overcame injury doubts to start at the Camp Nou, where Milan began the game needing just a score draw to progress following the 0-0 stalemate between the teams in the first leg at San Siro last week.
Messi had already threatened twice by the time he broke the deadlock in the tie in the 11th minute, placing a penalty into the bottom-left corner after he had been felled by Luca Antonini’s sliding tackle.
Barça were dominant, but Guardiola had predicted Milan would score and so they did in the 32nd minute, with Nocerino sliding home from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s reverse pass.
It took the hosts just nine minutes to restore their lead, however, with Messi sending penalty number two into the bottom-right corner after referee Bjorn Kuipers had bravely penalised Alessandro Nesta for holding Sergio Busquets’s shirt.
Milan’s hopes of a comeback receded sharply in the 53rd minute when Iniesta lifted Barça’s third past visiting goalkeeper Christian Abbiati after Messi’s shot was blocked to cement the Catalans’ place in the last four. —Reuters