Boateng & Muntari strike as Lionel Messi struggled

AC Milan's midfielder Ignazio Abate (R) challanges for the ball with Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan. (AFP)

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.

AC Milan's midfielder of Ghana Sulley Ali Muntari (L) celebrates scoring during the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan.  (AFP)

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.

Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez (L) challanges for the ball with AC Milan's midfielder of Ghana Sulley Ali Muntari during the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan. (AFP)

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.

AC Milan's Ghanaian defender Prince Kevin Boateng kicks and scores during the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan. (AFP)

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.

AC Milan's Ghanaian defender Prince Kevin Boateng celebrates scoring during the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan.  (AFP)

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.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) reacts during the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan. AC Milan defeated Barcelona 2-0.  (AFP)

Stephen El Shaarawy had a chance when he cut inside the right side of the area but Barcelona captain Carles Puyol tackled him as he was about to unleash a shot. From the resulting corner Boateng curled an effort just past the far post. Giampaolo Pazzini was a whisker away from connecting with what would have been a header into an empty net.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) fights for the ball during the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan.  (AFP)

El Shaarawy won a free kick 10 minutes after the break when he was brought down by Dani Alves. It was squared to Montolivo, whose effort appeared to be handled by Zapata as it fell to Boateng, who swivelled and fired it into the bottom right corner.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts at the end of the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan. AC Milan defeated Barcelona 2-0.  (AFP)

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.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts during the Champions League football match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona on February 20, 2013 at San Siro Stadium in Milan.  (AFP)

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.

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