High five: Barça outclasses Juventus, wins 5th Champions League
Christian Soler on Jun 07, 2015 01:24 PM
(Source: Shaun Botterrill, Getty Images).
Juventus 1 (Morata 55’) – Barcelona 3 (Rakitić 4’; Suárez 68’; Neymar 90 + 7’)
THE BEST team in Europe was fittingly the better team in Berlin.
An early goal and fearless fight back propelled FC Barcelona to its fifth UEFA Champions League title with a dominant 3-1 victory over a resolute Juventus in Berlin’s Olympiastadion last Saturday.
Coach Luis Enrique’s side could not have drawn up a more fabulous start to the final when Croatian sensation Ivan Rakitić finished a move started by Neymar down the left flank and polished by an Andrés Iniesta ball in the 4th minute to give the Catalans an early advantage. Barcelona kept up the pressure by playing an intense pressing game, which forced the Serie A and Coppa Italia champions to numerous errors for most of the first half.
The Spanish giants looked to be the more dominant team to start the second half, but it was Massimiliano Allegri’s squad that equalized in typical Juventus fashion. A sublime back heel by midfielder Claudio Marchisio fed right back Stephan Lichsteiner’s overlapping run, which culminated in a low pass to Carlos Tevez. The Argentine turned and fired a shot, which was only parried by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, and pounced on by Spaniard Álvaro Morata after 54 minutes. Juventus then pushed more men forward, and paid the price for it as the mercurial Lionel Messi picked up the ball on the counter and fired a shot into the Juve goal. Goalie Gianluigi Buffon, like ter Stegen 13 minutes before, only parried the ball, which landed on the foot of Luis Suárez, who calmly netted the La Liga and Copa del Rey champions’ second.
Spanish starlet Álvaro Morata tied the match for Juventus after capitalizing on a parried ball by Barcelona keeper Marc-André ter-Stegen in the 55th minute (Source: Ian MacNicol, Getty Images).
Barcelona looked to seal the match in the 71st minute after Neymar headed a Jordi Alba cross past Buffon. However, the goal line official adjudged the Brazilian winger to have handled the ball after it hit his head, resulting in the nullification of the potential title-clincher. But, the Seleção captain still found the back of the net deep into stoppage time. Again off the counter and with Juventus committing men forward in search of an equalizer, Neymar blitzed through the final half of the pitch and calmly slipped Barça’s third goal past a helpless Buffon.
Uruguayan forward Luis Suárez scored what would be the decisive championship-winning goal by completing a move jumpstarted by Lionel Messi in the 68th minute (Source: ESPN FC).
ÂÂÂ The 3-1 triumph in front of 70,000 fans capped off an improbable season for Catalunya’s pride. From being on the verge of getting canned as manager after a publicized fallout with Messi and what pundits thought was a questionable set of rotating players, Luis Enrique has now captured the treble in his maiden season at the Camp Nou. He now has the proverbial ball in his court after consistently maintaining a non-committal stance on his future with the club. It was likewise a fitting ending to the illustrious and unparalleled career of midfield maestro Xavi, who entered the game for eventual man of the match Iniesta and took his captain’s armband the rest of the way and was the first to lift his boyhood club’s fifth Champions League trophy. Along the way, Barcelona had defeated last season’s English champions and this season’s French, German, and Italian champions – Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Juventus, respectively – en route to the trophy.
Juventus, meanwhile, failed to replicate the feat achieved by its 1996 squad, which dispatched Ajax Amsterdam at the Stadio Olimpico, 4-2 (1-1 AET) on penalties. Uncertainty now hangs over the head of the eternal Andrea Pirlo, as rumors surround either his impending retirement or a move to Major League Soccer’s New York City FC, which has Spain’s all-time leading goal-scorer David Villa and former England captain Frank Lampard in its stable. Also, fellow midfielder Paul Pogba is Europe’s hottest commodity, being linked to high-profile transfers to the likes of his former club Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and even Barcelona in the past few weeks. The defeat, though, punctuates The Old Lady’s return from the humiliation of match-fixing, which resulted in its relegation to Serie B in the 2006-07 season. Allegri’s men have now won four Scudetto on the bounce after coasting to a domestic double this campaign.
35-year-old Club captain Xavi, who joined the club’s legendary La Masia youth system at the tender age of 11, leaves Barça on a high after guiding the Catalans to their fourth Champions League in nine years (Source: Shaun Botterrill, Getty Images).
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