Thiago Silva sends Camp Nou into silence as Barca draw with Milan
BARCELONA // A headed goal from Thiago Silva in the second minute of stoppage time stealed a 2-2 draw for AC Milan at Champions League holders Barcelona in the heavyweight pair's Group H opener last night.
Barca had recovered from conceding the fifth quickest ever goal in Europe's elite club competition, scored by Alexandre Pato after 24 seconds, through strikes from Pedro and David Villa.
Once ahead they quickly settled into a rhythm, enjoying almost 70 per cent of possession, but failed to kill off the seven-time champions and surrendered the lead for a second consecutive game following Saturday's 2-2 Primera Liga draw at Real Sociedad.
Their disappointment was compounded by the news that midfielder Andres Iniesta will be out for almost a month after tearing a leg muscle shortly before half time.
"It wasn't easy trying to penetrate the opponent's penalty area crowded with eight defenders," said Pep Guardiola, the Barca coach.
"We tried but at the end they levelled from a corner. What Milan did has a lot of merit. They made it as far as our goal two and a half times and they came away with a point."
Around 90,000 home fans packed into a sultry Camp Nou were stunned into near-silence seconds after the start when the Brazilian striker Pato left the home defence for dead and beat goalkeeper Victor Valdes with a low shot.
With captain Carles Puyol only declared fit this week after knee surgery, and his partner in central defence Gerard Pique sidelined, Guardiola deployed midfielders Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano at the back.
The decision immediately appeared to have backfired when the pacey Pato exposed their obvious lack of speed.
Barca then created a slew of chances for an equaliser before Lionel Messi struck a curling free-kick against the post.
The Argentina forward, top scorer in the competition the past three seasons, danced through the Milan defence to the by-line and squared for Pedro to rifle home with the visiting goalkeeper Christian Abbiati stranded.
Barca had recovered their customary poise, and a goal had long been coming when Villa stepped up to crack the ball into the top corner from 30 metres.
The home side were in total control without really threatening to score a third until the full-back Eric Abidal conceded a stoppage-time corner, although the France international claimed he had been fouled.
Clarence Seedorf, Milan's veteran Dutch midfielder, swung the ball over for Silva to claim an unlikely point.
"When they score an equaliser in the last minute you are left looking a bit stupid," Barca's Brazilian full-back Daniel Alves told Spanish television. "We have to pick ourselves up and keep working."
Milan were missing the former Barca striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, injured in training on Monday, among others, and the coach Massimiliano Allegri opted to use Pato and Antonio Cassano in a two-pronged attack.
Pato threatened to score a second several times during the first half hour before fading out of the game, while Italy forward Cassano looked short on fitness and was replaced by Urby Emanuelson after a hour.
"Barca are still the best team in the world but sometimes even they can draw," Allegri said.
"That's why football is so great because sometimes you lose without deserving to and other times you win without deserving to."
Barca captain Puyol drew cheers when he came off the bench in the second half but their night was further soured by the injury to Iniesta.
The Spain international was forced off just before the interval, and was replaced by Cesc Fabregas, and Barca said preliminary tests had shown he would be out for around four weeks.
"We try to look after the players as much as possible but these things can happen," Guardiola said.
Updated: September 14, 2011 04:00 AM