Slick Barca cruise past Ju­ven­tus to win Cham­pi­ons League

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY ROB HAR­RIS

Barcelona’s mighty at­tack­ing trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ney­mar won the Cham­pi­ons League on Satur­day with a 3-1 victory over Ju­ven­tus that showed the beauty of flu­ent and at­tack­ing foot­ball af­ter days of scan­dal that have tar­nished the sport.

The Span­ish cham­pion dom­i­nated the game, but the Ital­ian team played its part by fight­ing back from a goal down and seek­ing to match the com­plex spells wo­ven by Barcelona’s tal­ented play­ers. But Ju­ven­tus could not hang in there when Barca ac­cel­er­ated into an un­match­able rhythm.

Watched by more than 70,000 peo­ple in Ber­lin’s Olympic Sta­dium, Ju­ven­tus striker Al­varo Mo­rata can­celed out Ivan Rakitic’s early opener, Messi set up the vi­tal sec­ond for Suarez, and Ney­mar se­cured Barcelona’s fifth Euro­pean Cup deep into stop­page time with the last kick of the game.

The Messi-Suarez-Ney­mar axis com­plete the sea­son with a com- bined 122 goals — and now Euro­pean win­ners’ medals to join their league and cup ones.

Three years af­ter Pep Guardi­ola left Barcelona and af­ter last sea­son ended with­out a tro­phy, Luis Enrique matched Guardi­ola’s 2008-09 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.

“A mag­nif­i­cent, day,” Enrique said.

With a first Cham­pi­ons League tri­umph since 2011, Barca has won Euro­pean soc­cer’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 Ju­ven­tus de­fense.

“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.”

Few will be en­joy­ing the victory more than Suarez.

The Uruguay striker be­gan the sea­son in shame, signed from Liver­pool for US$110 mil­lion de­spite

spec­tac­u­lar be­ing handed a four-month ban by FIFA for bit­ing an op­po­nent at the World Cup. He pow­ered in Barcelona’s sec­ond goal in the 68th minute 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 said. “This is a dream.”

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

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

Ney­mar had a goal dis­al­lowed for hand­ball but, with the fi­nal go­ing into a sev­enth minute of stop­page time, the Brazil striker found space to score again as Ju­ven­tus des­per­ately sought a lev­eler, leav­ing its de­fense bare. This time it counted.

For Ju­ven­tus 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,” Ju­ven­tus mid­fielder Clau­dio Marchi­sio said. “There was a bit of fear.”

The Ital­ian cham­pion ini­tially looked like it could cause an up­set against the most dom­i­nant team in Europe in the mod­ern era. As­sertive from kick off, Ju­ven­tus made Barcelona look anx­ious ini­tially. It didn’t last long — just four min­utes, in fact.

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

So of­ten the provider of goals, Messi de­liv­ered a pre­cise cross­field pass in the goal­ward ad­vance. It landed at the feet of Jordi 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.

Had it not been for Buf­fon’s stretch­ing save at the start of the sec­ond half to deny Suarez, Ju­ven­tus would have been two be­hind. Messi, for once, also couldn’t find the tar­get af­ter a one-two with Suarez.

It proved costly. A back-heel from Clau­dio Marchi­sio be­gan the move that led to Juve’s equal­izer.

An ini­tial shot from Car­los Tevez was par­ried by Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen. But Mo­rata, who scored in both legs of the semi­fi­nal against for­mer club Real Madrid, sent the fol­low-up into the net with ease in the 55th minute.

Juve didn’t use the op­por­tu­nity to swing the fi­nal in its fa­vor, and Barca was back in front 13 min­utes later af­ter launch­ing an elec­tri­fy­ing coun­ter­at­tack.

Within five min­utes of Suarez’s goal, Barca was cel­e­brat­ing again — but the joy was short-lived. Ney­mar was spot­ted to have headed the ball onto his hand be­fore it went past Buf­fon.

But Ney­mar did have the fi­nal say in this fi­nal with the late, late goal.

It gave Xavi Her­nan­dez the per­fect send-off, de­part­ing for Qatar af­ter spend­ing his en­tire ca­reer at Barcelona with an­other medal.

“Noth­ing can beat fin­ish­ing in this way,” the 35-year-old mid­fielder said.

Now the soc­cer world’s fo­cus is likely to shift back to al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, ar­rests and in­ves­ti­ga­tions that have pum­meled the game’s rep­u­ta­tion in the last 10 days.

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