Gallery: Champions League Final: Click here
No complaints from Fergie: Click Here
Barca blow us out of the water: Click Here
Barcelona beat Manchester United 2-0 in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday evening to be crowned champions of Europe and complete a never-before accomplished treble in the process.
In Barca coach Josep Guardiola’s debut season in charge of the Catalan giants, the Spanish outfit completed their triply-glorious season in style with a domineering victory over Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, in the process denying The Red Devils the accolade of becoming the first team to defend the Champions League title in its current form.
After a blistering start from United which saw Cristiano Ronaldo twice go close, Samuel Eto’o slammed Barca into the lead with their first chance after ten minutes, and from there Guardiola’s classier team took hold.
Thierry Henry almost doubled the advantage early in the second half but was denied by Edwin van der Sar while Xavi went even closer but was foiled by the right post, as he crashed a free-kick off the woodwork.
The competition’s leading scorer this season – and now the true claimant to the title of world’s best player – Lionel Messi then stepped forward to win the battle of the superstars with Cristiano Ronaldo as he gracefully nodded a Xavi cross home in the 70th minute to finish United off, and secure Barca’s third trophy alongside their league and Copa del Rey triumphs.
Described in its pre-match hype as the ‘dream final’ in pitting Europe’s widely-recognised two finest teams against one another, Barca avenged last season’s semi-final exit at the hands of United and edged Spain in front of England as the leading exponent of European champions with a twelfth title for a team from their top flight. Barca also brought to an end United’s all-time record 25-game unbeaten run in the Champions League.
So much was made of the Messi versus Ronaldo comparison beforehand with debate raging over who the better and more influential player was, not just for their own side but on the world stage. It was the United man who had the first chance to stamp his impression on the game when a free-kick was awarded within his range inside two minutes, Yaya Toure impeding Anderson’s path illegally. The zipping effort from the Portuguese winger bounced right in front of Victor Valdes, forcing the Barca keeper to spill into the path of Park Ji-sung who was thwarted by a last-ditch Gerard Pique block. It was a tenacious start from United and one which continued for only a very short time.
Buoyed by his troublesome set piece, Ronaldo tried an audacious shot from long range that flew past Valdes’ left-hand post, and moments later chested and volleyed marginally wide as Barca failed to get a footing in the game. United had gained the upper hand, but that changed in an instant in the tenth minute.
Iniesta, at times overshadowed by the pomp which surrounds Messi but no less an influence on his side, drove past Michael Carrick and laid on Eto’o. A deft check inside a gingerly and retracting challenge from Nemanja Vidic saw the Cameroonian striker get enough of a sight of goal to poke the ball past Van der Sar at his near post, before Carrick’s desperate lunging challenge caught him.
Having scored from their first attack and visibly lifted by the goal, Barca began to give glimpses of the style they have exuded so much this season as they relaxed on the ball and begun to play. Messi started to enjoy snippets of time on the ball but mis-timed a shot from a corner as the momentum was slowly swinging the Spanish champions’ way.
A stray pass in midfield from Carrick laid bare his shakiness, while Ryan Giggs lifted a free-kick over the bar after Pique body-checked Ronaldo. United had been the domineering power early on, but by this stage they were fast losing the momentum they had built.
Messi fired just over as he drifted in off the right, while at the other end Ronaldo was restricted to a dragged shot wide from 20 yards. Xavi floated a free-kick not far over after Anderson had nudged the instrumental Iniesta in the back as Barca’s chances started to mount.