Barca cruise past Juve to win fifth European Cup, second treble

Published June 8, 2015
Barcelona players and officials celebrate with the trophy after winning the Champions League final against Juventus at the Olympic Stadium.—AP
Barcelona players and officials celebrate with the trophy after winning the Champions League final against Juventus at the Olympic Stadium.—AP

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 as the Spaniards became the first team to twice win the European treble.

The Catalans lived up to their tag as favourites and added the European Cup to their La Liga and Copa del Rey triumphs as coach Luis Enrique celebrated his first season in memorable fashion by matching Pep Guardiola’s feat from the 2008-09 season.

The Spaniards dominated the game, but the Italians played their part by fighting back from a goal down and seeking to match the complex spells woven by Barca’s talented players including their mighty attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

But Juve could not hang in there when Barca accelerated into an unmatchable rhythm.

A fourth-minute goal by Croatian Ivan Rakitic was cancelled out by Juventus’ ex-Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, who equalised on 55 minutes.

Messi set up the vital second for Uruguayan Suarez in the 68th and Brazilian Neymar added the third with the last kick of the game as the trio, known collectively as ‘MSN’, completed the season with a combined 122 goals.

Three years after Guardiola left Barca and after last season ended without a trophy, Enrique matched Guardiola’s feat of winning a treble in his first season in charge, suggesting the Catalan giants could be ready for a new period of European dominance.

LUIS SUAREZ (second L) scores Barcelona’s second goal in the 68th minute to give them the lead again during the Champions League final against Juventus.—Reuters
LUIS SUAREZ (second L) scores Barcelona’s second goal in the 68th minute to give them the lead again during the Champions League final against Juventus.—Reuters

“A magnificent, spectacular day,” Enrique said.

After their 2006, 2009 and 2011 triumphs, Barca have won European football’s top trophy four times in the last decade.

Andres Iniesta has featured in each final and the midfielder is also celebrating his second treble. Iniesta played a deep defensive midfield role in Berlin as the strikers caused havoc in the panicky Juve defence.

“We won’t see this happen again very often,” Iniesta said. “Six years later we did [the treble] again. All my words fall short. Let the people enjoy this Barca.”

SUAREZ TRIUMPH

Few will be enjoying the victory more than Suarez.

He began the season in shame, signed from Liverpool for $110 million despite being handed a four-month ban by FIFA for biting an opponent at the World Cup but powered in Barca’s second goal after Messi’s shot was palmed away by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

“When you come to a team like Barca, you know that you have come to win,” Suarez told reporters. “This is a dream. It’s incredible, it’s unique.

“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. The best thing about this side is the spirit and the fact we’ve been united since the start of the season.”

Suarez is rarely far from controversy, however. Twice he writhed around in agony, winning free-kicks and feigning serious injury. Juve fans yelled derision when he recovered miraculously after wasting minutes.

JUVENTUS’ Alvaro Morata scores their 55th-minute equaliser during the Champions League final against Barcelona.—Reuters
JUVENTUS’ Alvaro Morata scores their 55th-minute equaliser during the Champions League final against Barcelona.—Reuters

Just like Suarez, Neymar has collected the top prize in club football for the first time after two years at Barca.

Neymar had a goal disallowed for handball but, in the seventh minute of stoppage time, he found space to score again as Juve desperately sought a leveller, leaving their defence bare. This time it counted.

Despite brief moments of magic, Messi failed to become the first player to score in three Champions League finals as he equalled Dutch star Clarence Seedorf’s tally of four winners’ medals.

In 2009 Barcelona joined the elite club of treble winners that include Celtic, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. Now, they are the first to have done that twice.

For Juve there was no third European title, just the unwelcome record of being the first team to lose six finals. Still, the season ends with a domestic double.

“While we’ve played a lot of finals, a lot of us had never played a Champions final,” Juve’s Claudio Marchisio said. “There was a bit of fear.”

SUBLIME GOAL

The Serie A and Coppa Italia champions initially looked like they could cause an upset against the most dominant team in Europe in the modern era.

“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.”

Assertive from kick off, Juve made Barca look anxious initially. It didn’t last long — just four minutes, in fact — before Barca shrugged off their nervous start by scoring a sublime goal.

BARCELONA’S Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic (R) scores their fourth-minute opener during the Champions League final against Juventus.—AFP
BARCELONA’S Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic (R) scores their fourth-minute opener during the Champions League final against Juventus.—AFP

In a delightful move that involved all 10 outfield players touching the ball, starting with Jordi Alba’s throw in, Barca took the lead.

So often the provider of goals, Messi delivered a precise cross-field pass in the goalward advance. It landed at the feet of Alba, who played in Neymar and the ball was then slipped through to Iniesta. With a flick, Iniesta squared for Rakitic to score from close range past Buffon.

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.

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. A back-heel from Marchisio began the move with Morata tapping the ball in after keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had saved from Carlos Tevez.

It was the ex-Real striker’s first goal against Barca despite four years at the Bernabeu having left Madrid last year. The Italians looked to be taking control of the game but their joy was short-lived.

‘BRUTAL’ XAVI FINALE

Argentine Messi took matters into his own hands, launching an electrifying counterattack as he charged past three defenders and unleashed a low drive that Buffon could only parry to Suarez.

NEYMAR (L) reels away in celebration after scoring past Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon deep into stoppage time of their Champions League final.—AP
NEYMAR (L) reels away in celebration after scoring past Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon deep into stoppage time of their Champions League final.—AP

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.

Within five minutes of Suarez’s goal, Barca were celebrating again — but the joy was short-lived.

Neymar had a goal disallowed by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir 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 Seedorf’s record of four Champions League triumphs.

He came on for his final game in the Barca shirt in the dying stages as he made history with a record 151st Champions League appearance before joining Qatari side Al Sadd next season.

“Nothing can beat finishing in this way,” the 35-year-old Spain international midfielder, who lost his place in the starting side to Rakitic this season, said. “... but to leave this way is brutal.”

Juve were devastated after their fightback, but hailed the achievement of coach Allegri in getting the team to the final during his first season in charge, beating Real Madrid in the semis. “You gave us a dream. Thanks, mister,” said Juve’s official Twitter account.—Agencies

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