AC Milan's record of never having lost a UEFA Champions League semi-final is in grave danger after Ludovic Giuly's fine finish enabled FC Barcelona to leave the San Siro with a 1-0 victory and a sizeable advantage from an entertaining first leg.
Recalled following an injury to Henrik Larsson, the French winger took advantage of some Ronaldinho sorcery to score the only goal in the 57th minute. The Brazilian also hit a post along with Alberto Gilardino, who passed up another tremendous opportunity to register his first European goal for the hosts soon after the restart. Milan will have to be more clinical at Camp Nou next Wednesday if they are to advance to a third final in four years.
Having been Milan's most hyperactive player in the warm-up, Gennaro Gattuso went from rousing the 76,883 crowd to orchestrating a confident start from his team with seamless ease. It took barely 30 seconds for the Rossoneri to win their first corner and three minutes to work a half-chance, Jaap Stam flicking a header against the legs of a Barcelona defender. A flurry of fouls and misplaced passes then threatened to stifle the match before Milan switched their point of attack to the left-hand side and twice went close to striking the first blow of the tie.
With 14 minutes gone, Serginho sent a long throw into the box which Rafael Márquez, beginning his first game since tearing a hamstring against Real Sociedad de Fútbol on 18 March, looked to have under control. The Mexican allowed the ball to bounce free off his chest, however, and Gilardino stole in to drill the ball against the post from an acute angle. As the striker pondered his misfortune in this competition - he has not scored in nine UEFA Champions League appearances following a €24m transfer from Parma FC - Milan regrouped and attacked again.
Clarence Seedorf found space out wide and had time to look up and spot Andriy Shevchenko racing down the opposite flank before curling in a delicious centre to the Ukrainian whose header was smartly touched behind by Víctor Valdés. The opening half-hour had been largely trouble free for the goalkeeper at the opposite end, Dida, with the Brazilian more than equal to the tame low shots that came his way from distance. Giuly then wasted Barça's best opening of the half in the 38th minute when driving low at Dida after instigating a move involving Ronaldinho and Eto'o by cleverly dispossessing Andrea Pirlo.
Although the Frenchman's time was to come, Gilardino's was not: the forward again failing to hit the target six minutes after the restart when Kaká touched the ball into his path following a delicious reverse chip from Shevchenko. The breakthrough would also come from a magical delivery, as Ronaldinho teased Gattuso 45 metres from goal and flicked a nimble pass that deceived everyone bar Giuly, who took advantage of the space afforded him by Kakha Kaladze to blast in the away goal at Dida's near post.
Scorer turned provider seven minutes later as Giuly won the ball in his own half and showed fine pace to break forward and free Ronaldinho. The Brazilian would have expected to be closed down but as the home defence held back, he strode onwards before sending a slightly scuffed effort against the post with his countryman Dida grounded. Milan's best chance of an equaliser subsequently fell to substitute Massimo Ambrosini, whose rushed finish in the 81st minute from Kaká's slick pass typified the Rossoneri's night of frustration.
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