BY JUSTIN FERGUSON
For the first time in 133 matches, FC Barcelona has lost by a multi-goal margin.
The Spanish giants were shutout 2-0 by AC Milan in the first leg of their Round of 16 matchup in the Champions League, placing their quest for a treble in serious jeopardy.
The last time the runaway La Liga leaders lost a match by more than one goal, it was a 3-1 decision to Real Betis in the second leg of 2011’s Copa del Rey quarterfinals. It was a match Barcelona could afford to lose, entering with a 5-0 lead from the first leg.
Kevin-Prince Boateng controversially opened the scoring for a dominant Milan in the 57th minute, pouncing on a rebound that appeared to come off of the hand of Cristian Zapata. Barcelona defenders appealed for a handball as Boateng fired the ball past Victor Valdes.
Barcelona’s offense started creating more chances on goals than it had in the first half, but the Catalans were only able to register one shot on goal. Lionel Messi, who was neutralized by a tough Milan defense for the entire match, completely missed on his best chance of the evening in the 62nd minute, uncharacteristically skying a free kick.
Milan took advantage of Barcelona’s misses with nine minutes left in the match. Stephen El Shaarawy flicked a pass inside the box to a charging Sulley Muntari, who calmly finished off the impressive play from ten yards out. The hosts would hold strong for the final minutes of the match, securing a massive 2-0 lead for the trip to Camp Nou in three weeks.
Here are some more stories to wrap up your Wednesday:
JONES EQUALIZES FOR SCHALKE AT GALATASARAY
Jermaine Jones spoiled the Champions League return for new Galatasaray signings Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder, giving his struggling side momentum and a key road goal in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw.
Burak Yilmaz put the home side up in spectacular fashion just 12 minutes into the match. The Turkish forward flicked a pass with his heel over Schalke’s Benedikt Howedes before slotting a powerful shot past Timo Hildebrand for the goal.
Despite receiving a first half yellow card that will keep him out of the second leg, Jones knocked in a crucial equalizer right before the halftime whistle. Jefferson Farfan broke through on goal after a bad Galatasaray giveaway, laying it off to a wide open Jones for the finish.
The second half of the match turned out to be less dramatic than the shot-filled first. Schalke appeared to have a legitimate case for a handball penalty in the 53rd minute, but it was waved off by referee William Collum. Yilmaz was denied of a late winner thanks to an excellent tip save by Hildebrand.
The two sides will meet again in three weeks at the Veltins Arena.
AFCON REFEREE APOLOGIZES FOR CONTROVERSIAL SEMIFINAL
A Tunisian referee that came under heavy criticism for decisions he made in the AFCON semifinal between Ghana and Burkina Faso apologized for his poor refereeing on Wednesday.
Slim Jedidi awarded an early controversial penalty, ruled out a potential winning goal and sent off a player for simulation–a decision that was later overturned–during the January match.
“I made mistakes during that game,” Jedidi said. “I don’t know how and why but I later realised I committed lots of blunders. I did not see things I was supposed to see and I misinterpreted a number of decisions.
“I’m very sorry and I wish to express my apology to all those affected by my substandard conduct during that meeting.”
Jedidi called rumors that he may have been bribed by Ghanian representatives “baseless”, saying that anything wrong that happened during the match were purely mistakes.
Last-place Bundesliga club Gruether Furth fired manager Mike Buskens, who led the club to its first ever appearance in the German top flight. (REPORT)
The Premier League says it is still aiming for goal-line technology to be ready for the start of next season. (REPORT)
Liverpool’s Fabio Borini is out and Martin Skrtel is doubtful for Thursday’s Europa League match with Zenit. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? How do you think the second leg of the AC Milan-Barcelona matchup will go? Think this draw might spark a turnaround for Schalke?
Share your comments below.