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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Barcelona win Champions League

Barcelona win Champions League

May 28, 2009 11:42 IST

A confident start



The dream Champions League final did not materialise as Manchester United showed rare stage fright and Barcelona won without having to produce a stellar performance.

All the talk had been of the final most neutrals wanted, both teams the champions of their countries and blessed with the world's greatest attacking talent.

But the curtain fell timidly on Manchester United's European reign as the Catalans won the trophy for the second time in four years and third overall courtesy of a regulation 2-0 victory.

From the moment Samuel Eto'o grabbed the early opener, the script looked ready for 38-year-old Pep Guardiola to seal European football's top title in his first season as coach.

His team completed the treble following their domestic league and cup successes, the first time it has been done in Spanish football.

Few would argue they are worthy of that honour given the stunning displays this season which have left defenders and spectators dumbstruck.

Wednesday's showing in Rome was not out of the top drawer but the Catalan party-goers will care little, especially after they edged through in stoppage-time in the semi-final of attrition against Chelsea.

"We are very happy," Guardiola told reporters. "We started badly but the goal calmed us down and in general we played a good match." 

Image: Team Barcelona
Photographs: Reuters

Eto'o gave Barca an early lead

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Despite being the holders and starting with their first- choice team, United looked nervous and their usually solid defence looked especially tentative.

"Tonight the defending it has to be said was shoddy, the first goal in particular which gave them a great boost," Ferguson told a news conference.

"We were well beaten, the better team won."

The English side had conceded just six goals in this season's competition before the game but you would not have guessed it.

Barca were without three usual starters in defence but United's backline was sloppy throughout.

Samuel Eto'o put the Spanish champion ahead in the 10th minute at Stadio Olimpico.

Serb Nemanja Vidic is usually as hard as nails but Eto'o made him melt like butter when he drifted past before firing a shot through a slightly slow Edwin van der Sar.

United had the better early chances but it was all because of Cristiano Ronaldo's sublime skills and willingness to shoot from just about anywhere. His team mates lacked drive and it was little surprise when Alex Ferguson took off the ineffective Anderson for Carlos Tevez at halftime.

Image: Samuel Eto'o celebrates his goal
Photographs: Reuters
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Messi's masterclass sealead Man United's fate

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Lionel Messi produced something special to help Barcelona's cause.

It also established his team as the unofficial best team on the planet.

A rare headed goal.

Messi usually uses his head to send instructions to his feet on how to humble defenders, and the combination brought him a season-high nine Champions League goals and 38 in total for Barca.

The ninth was a looping header over goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in 70th minute as Barcelona proved itself the best around by outplaying defending champion United and swinging pendulum of power back from English Premier League to La Liga.

"This is the most important victory of my life," Messi said

Messi, playing in the middle of the front three between Eto'o and fit-again Thierry Henry, made good runs but did nothing extraordinary.

That a man of his size was given space by Rio Ferdinand to head home Barcelona's second on 70 minutes from eight metres was significant.

Image: Lionel Messi scores
Photographs: Reuters
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The win completed Barca's treble

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It was Barcelona's third European Cup win after their successes in 1992 and 2006.

Victory also completed a European and domestic treble for Barca in an extraordinary first season for coach Pep Guardiola, who ended Alex Ferguson's dreams of making United the first side to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era.

The match, hailed as a "dream final" between two of Europe's greatest clubs, could not live up to its expectations because United were so far below their best.

Man United was thoroughly outplayed by the Spanish side, which has 153 league and cup goals this season.

Xavi Hernandez floated a diagonal ball into the United area to find Messi unmarked, and the 5-foot-7 (1.69-meter) Argentina striker renowned for his deft dribbling and shooting used his head to redirect it past Van der Sar.

The victory also marked the first Champions League title for Barcelona striker Thierry Henry, who was on the losing side when Arsenal lost to Barcelona in 2006.

"Finally, I've been waiting for so long to get this title and now finally today," said Henry, who had been doubtful for the final because of a knee injury.

Barcelona's victory was all the more notable as they were without suspended full-backs Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves as well as the injured Rafael Marquez.

Andres Iniesta, despite not being fully fit, dominated the midfield battle alongside Xavi and helped prise United's grip from the trophy they won against Chelsea in Moscow last year.

Xavi, voted Man of the Match, cracked a free kick against a post at the start of the second half and his link play with his team mates frustrated United once Barcelona had taken a grip on the game

Image: Barcelona players with the trophy
Photographs: Reuters
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Ronaldo failed to deliver when it mattered

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Cristiano Ronaldo's early free kick was blocked and Portuguese failed to create chances as the match progressed.

Ferguson reshaped his attack for the second half, sending on a second striker, Carlos Tevez, and later added Dimitar Berbatov.

That left United undermanned in midfield and Barcelona continued to create openings.

Barcelona could have added more but Van der Sar saved twice from Carles Puyol and Ronaldo was shown yellow card for some petulant challenges on the Barcelona captain 

Barcelona's "killer" first goal and their ability to control a game once in front were decisive in their victory, Ferguson said.

"I think the first goal was a killer for us," Ferguson told ITV. "We started brightly too. We got a bit nervous after that."

United did make a good start but Samuel Eto'o netted after 10 minutes and the English side faded badly, with their defence looking especially shaky, and Lionel Messi wrapped up victory midway through the second half.

"The first goal didn't help that's for sure," Ferguson said at a news conference. "It gave them the opportunity to keep possession, which they do well.

"We didn't deal with it well enough. That really was the story. I think there's a disappointment in the performance and some individuals will say that themselves."

The loss left the Man United manager at 25 titles in 23 seasons. Ferguson failed to match Liverpool's Bob Paisley's three titles in the competition.

Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Photographs: Reuters
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