Xavi: Camp Nou atmosphere a marvel
Barcelona's players hailed a memorable atmosphere inside the Camp Nou after Tuesday night's stirring 4-0 Champions League last-16 second leg win over AC Milan.
Milan's 2-0 win in their first meeting at San Siro had left Barca needing an unlikely comeback to progress, and the mood inside the stadium was extra tense before the game.
Lionel Messi's early goal settled some of the nerves, and his second before half-time set his side on the way to winning 4-2 on aggregate, becoming the first side to overcome a two-goal first leg deficit without the help of an away goal in the modern Champions League era.
Playmaker Xavi Hernandez, who has seen many memorable nights at the stadium, told Canal Plus that he had not witnessed such an atmosphere for many years.
"We had not had a historic comeback for many years," Xavi said. "We had everything to achieve it. The fans were at ten out of ten. It was a marvel. It is a long time since we saw the Camp Nou this intense, this excited. Leo's goal at the start was so good for us, we got that positive momentum going. We moved the ball really well, pressed them very well up top, we played an exceptional game. We wanted to be in the quarter-finals and we achieved that."
Left-back Jordi Alba, whose clinching goal in injury time lead to an outpouring of emotion between players and fans inside the stadium, told the Spanish TV station that all of 'barcelonismo' had suffered at times during the game.
"This is a very important victory for us, there was so much at stake," Alba said. "It was such an important goal. All barcelonismo wanted this historic comeback. We were suffering a lot in the final minutes of the game. Milan were looking for a goal."
The former Valencia player said that, overall, it had been a very complete performance from Barca, and he had no preference whether or not Friday's draw lead to two more Clasicos against domestic rivals Real Madrid.
"We were great going forward and in defence," Alba said. "We saw the real FC Barcelona tonight. We do not care who we get in the next round. We must learn from this tie and play with the same motivation and drive."
David Villa, who repaid Tito Vilanova's surprise decision to start him in the game with a typically clinical finish for his side's third goal, told reporters in the Camp Nou mixed zone that the joy of this night had helped him forget any recent frustrations.
"When you have sweet days like this all that has happened to you before is forgotten," Villa said. "Going through must be enjoyed, and you must just think about the future. Our joy is overwhelming. As soon as the game in Milan ended, we really believed we could turn the tie around. With that attitude you can do a lot."
Speaking after playing most of the game very high on the right wing in Vilanova's ultra-attacking tactical set-up, Dani Alves said the performance had restored the pride of Barca's players and fans.
"I think that, once again, the 'socios' and fans left the stadium with a sense of pride," Alves said. "We are not the team that lost in Milan, we are the team that won this evening. We pressured and created chances. This is the team's identity. We know how to control the rhythm of the game. On this magical night we defeated a great opponent."