Lionel Messi told UEFA.com he was "calm about recuperating from injury" after ending a four-game goalless run in FC Barcelona's qualification-clinching defeat of AC Milan.
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Without FC Barcelona going through the gears against AC Milan, Lionel Messi again produced the goods to clinch a 3-1 success and ensure the three-time UEFA Champions League winners qualified for the knockout stage after only four Group H matches.
However, Messi admitted he was plagued with doubts before slotting the opening goal on Wednesday from the penalty spot – not because of an unusual run of four games without scoring, more the imposing frame filling the Milan goalmouth. As for the Rossoneri, defender Cristián Zapata was concerned the scoreline did not reflect the play, with Milan still equipped to follow Barça out of Group H.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona forward
Right from the start I thought we played well – we were the main protagonists, pretty much as we normally are. The fact we conceded just before the break did make things just a touch more complicated but from that point onwards we were the superior side.
Taking a penalty [straight down the middle] depends on the moment, not pre–planning – especially in this case. [Christian] Abbiati's someone I've taken quite a few penalties against and I did have several doubts flitting through my mind about what was best to do. Also, he's a huge guy and that affects your thinking. He's good if you put it high or low because he's not only big but he's quick to get down to the corner of his goal too. In the end I put it down the middle and it went in. That's that.
I'm calm about the recuperation from injury. I'm getting my rhythm back bit by bit and I think it really helps to have 90 minutes, then another 90, back to back so I can gradually re-establish the tempo and the form I had before the injury. It just helps physically. This time there have been two injuries really close together and that kind of impact you do notice. But I'm definitely getting past it and I'm happy with my form.
Gerard Piqué, Barcelona defender
We played well and created lots of opportunities. I think Milan only had perhaps one shot on target. You could say we deserved a little more luck with some of our chances but in general we are definitely improving. The only thing is that we are Barcelona and we can clearly play better than this. However, we are definitely going in the right direction.
The tempo of the play is increasing as the season develops. We have a new coach and step by step he's teaching us about precisely what he demands of us and we are both taking hold of and applying his concepts. You can see that in our play.
I almost think [Messi] has given us so much, over so many years, that maybe there's not so much left to say even after a game like this. Even while he's closing in on the all-time Champions League record for goals. Maybe the idea is just to enjoy him for the time we have him here. The more he brings to the party the more welcome it will be from all of us. Let me tell you, when you have the best player ever in your team, it's great!
Neymar, Barcelona forward
We're really happy to be on the verge of qualification but there are two games left, each of which we think is vital to win. They are also against really big, historic clubs. The team is growing, bit by bit. Messi is a true great, without question the best in the world. Even he has to struggle a bit in front of goal occasionally but now it'll be less and less after these two goals and a good result.
Cristián Zapata, Milan defender
I'm not sure there was really that much difference between the teams tonight. We went out to win and we had opportunities to score, we just didn't convert. Despite all that we don't leave here happy. The match was there for the taking right until the closing stages but the equaliser just wouldn't come our way.
All we can do now is work because our options of staying in the competition remain alive. When Balo [Mario Balotelli] came on I thought it was going to be a decisive change in our favour. He gave Barça's defenders problems without actually putting the ball in the net. As for Messi – what crisis?