Barca cap great season with fifth European Cup win
BERLIN – Barcelona were crowned kings of Europe for the fifth time after beating Juventus 3-1 in a pulsating Champions League final at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, capping their magnificent season with a title treble.
The Spaniards lived up to their tag as favourites and added the European Cup to their La Liga and King’s Cup triumphs as coach Luis Enrique celebrated his first season in memorable fashion.
Goals from Croatian Ivan Rakitic in the fourth minute, Uruguayan Luis Suarez in the 68th and Brazilian Neymar with the last kick of the game sealed Barca’s second treble, matching their 2009 feat.
“It’s incredible, a dream, something unique,” Suarez told reporters. “To win these competitions you have to suffer, if not it’s not worth it, and today we had to suffer to win the match.”
Barca’s South American trio of Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi, known collectively as ‘MSN’, showed spectacular form all season and Saturday’s goals took their tally to an amazing 122 in all competitions as the game proved the perfect antidote for the corruption scandal engulfing football’s governing body FIFA.
Juve, however, became the first team in the history of the competition to get beaten in six finals and the Italian giants have now lost their last four.
“I would like to thank the team for the wonderful season they have had,” said Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri who landed the domestic double in his first season in charge.
“We played a great game tonight…unfortunately when you play against great players you think you have things under control but then they get you.”
Barca shrugged off a nervous start by scoring a sublime fourth-minute goal.
All 10 outfield players touched the ball in a 16-pass move that ended when Neymar fed Andres Iniesta and he picked out Rakitic to slot the fourth fastest goal in a European Cup final.
Juve keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who won the World Cup with Italy at the Olympic Stadium in 2006 but is still waiting to capture his first European Cup crown, denied Barca a second goal in the 13th minute with a superb one-handed save keeping out a Dani Alves shot.
Alvaro Morata twice went close for the Italians but Barca’s pressure in the first half was relentless and Suarez twice almost netted.
The 37-year-old Buffon again came to the rescue three minutes after the restart and then Juve struck against the run of play with former Real Madrid striker Morata tapping the ball in after keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had saved from Carlos Tevez.
The Italians looked to be taking control of the game but their joy was short-lived. Argentine Messi took matters into his own hands, charging past three defenders and unleashing a low drive that Buffon could only parry to Suarez.
It was the most crucial goal of the 28-year-old Uruguayan’s career and it came a year after he was branded a villain for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, who missed Saturday’s final through injury, at the World Cup in Brazil.
Neymar had a goal disallowed after his header bounced off his own hand to deceive the diving Buffon, much to the forward’s frustration.
Juve, who had an average age of 30 and were the second oldest team to play in a Champions League final, fought bravely but ran out of steam.
Neymar netted deep into stoppage time to provide a fitting farewell for midfielder Xavi who is leaving Barca after collecting 25 trophies in more than two decades with the club he joined at the age of 11.
Along with team mates Iniesta, Messi and Gerard Pique, Xavi also equalled former Netherlands midfielder Clarence Seedorf’s record of four Champions League triumphs. – Reuters