Barcelona took their reputation to new heights with a stunning 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Wembley to be crowned European champions.
Goals from Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa gave Pep Guardiola’s side the Champions League trophy, and although Wayne Rooney replied for United there was absolutely no doubt the Catalans deserved their victory, just as they did when they beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in Rome two years ago.
United provided energy, determination and passion – typified when Rooney equalised Pedro’s 27th-minute opener by making it 1-1 seven minutes later.
But Barca dominated most of the match with their wonderful passing football and scored goals of true quality.
Messi, almost unanimously hailed as the world’s best player, made it 2-1 with an individual effort from the edge of the box after 54 minutes before Villa’s impudent chip left Edwin van der Sar stranded in his last game for United before retirement.
It was a bitter pill for Ferguson’s side to swallow as they tried to win the trophy for the fourth time – but they do have the consolation of having lost to a truly great side.
Ferguson, as usual, included a surprise in his selection – not only leaving out Dimitar Berbatov in favour of Javier Hernandez but opting to choose Michael Owen ahead of the Bulgarian on the bench as well.
But Barcelona’s decision to omit captain Carles Puyol, who has been struggling with a knee injury, and play Javier Mascherano at centre-back caused just as big a stir.
Those questions hardly mattered once the match began, however, as both sides served up a stunning spectacle of attacking and competitive football.
The clash of styles was clear – United’s athleticism, tenacity and direct threat against Barca’s legendary beautiful football steeled by the most impressive pressing game the sport has seen.
The result was a fascinating contest that began with United on top in the early stages but saw Barca mesmerise their opponents with intricate passing before taking the lead on 27 minutes.
Striker Pedro, not considered one of the Catalan club’s superstars, was the man who finished it effortlessly by steering a side-footed shot past van der Sar at his near post.
United, however, are as well-known for their indomitable spirit as Barca are for their sweet interplay – and Ferguson’s men levelled the scores after 34 minutes when Rooney’s determination brought them back in the game.
The striker started and finished the move, playing a one-two with veteran Ryan Giggs before steering a curling and unerring effort into the top corner of Victor Valdes’ net.
United knew, however, their job was not over and Barca quickly re-asserted themselves in the second half, creating half-chances for Alves and Messi before the talismanic Argentine made it 2-1 in the 54th minute.
There didn’t seem much on when Andres Iniesta casually laid the ball off to his team-mate – but Messi jinked instantly into action, beating three players with one touch and whipping home a left-footed shot that was past van der Sar before the Dutchman could even blink.
The United keeper denied Messi a second in the 63rd minute and flung himself to keep out a curling effort from Xavi but you could see another goal was coming and it was provided by Villa in spectacular style.
The Spaniard, inside the area, took time to trap the ball in a crowded penalty box before chipping a shot high into the right-hand corner with almost no backlift.
It was a fitting end to a wonderful final – one that ended with deserved winners.
(Source : Soccernews)