AC Milan stunned Barcelona 2-0 in the first leg of its Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday, beating the Spanish giant for the first time in eight matches.
Kevin-Prince Boateng gave Milan the lead in controversial circumstances in the 57th minute. Cristian Zapata appeared to handle Riccardo Montolivo’s assist in the buildup.
Barcelona players protested but to no avail and Gerard Pique was booked in the process.
Sulley Muntari sealed the win nine minutes from time with a well-worked goal.
Milan contained Barcelona’s potent attack impressively, allowing it just two shots on target all match.
The result was a massive boost to Milan’s turnaround from a dreadful start to the season. Massimiliano Allegri’s side was 15th in the Italian league after eight games but has risen to third.
It still went into the home match as a firm underdog against a Barcelona side which has lost only twice all season in the league and in Europe.
It was Barcelona’s first loss by two goals since a 3-1 defeat to Real Betis in the Spanish Cup on Jan. 19, 2011.
While the teams knew each other well having played each other four times last season, this was a much-changed Milan side after losing experienced players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf in the offseason.
Milan was also without Mario Balotelli, who was cup tied, and Robinho, Mathieu Flamini, Antonio Nocerino, Daniele Bonera, Luca Antonini and Nigel De Jong, who were all injured.
However, it was the Italian side which had the better opportunities in the first half and almost scored in the fifth minute when Muntari’s speculative volley from outside the area sailed narrowly over the crossbar.
Lionel Messi, who had been kept quiet by Milan, had a chance to level with a free kick in a dangerous position, but he drove it well over the crossbar.
Andres Iniesta also went close in the 76th with a snapshot just past the right post.
Messi did better with another free kick, on the opposite side, but sent it over the crossbar again.
Milan doubled its lead in the 81st. Substitute M’Baye Niang’s cross was flicked on by El Shaarawy to Muntari, who found himself in acres of space to volley past Victor Valdes.
Barca almost scored a valuable away goal late on, but Puyol headed a corner just wide of the left upright much to the satisfaction of spectator Novak Djokovic, the tennis star who is a fervent Milan fan.