Barcelona defeat Juventus in Champions League final

Their fifth European crown puts them level with Bayern Munich and Liverpool, behind only Milan and Real Madrid.

More to come? Suarez is 28, Messi 27 and Neymar 23. Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba, twin driving forces all night, switched sides, but it was going to take more than that to spook Iniesta. There were a few wobbles at the back for Barca — a thundering Pogba counter, Alvaro Morata nicking the ball deep from Alba — but this is the price they pay for the way they play.

Pirlo’s eyes watered at the end as he embraced Pogba in what ought to be a natural sporting progression, provided market forces don’t get in the way and Pogba leaves the club. And, by this, I don’t mean the “Barcelona way” because, over time, it has come to mean so many different things, stretching principles that may have begun with Johan Cruyff and evolved with Pep Guardiola, but now run the gamut.

The Barca fans thought it was 3-1 when Neymar appeared to head the ball past Buffon a few minutes later. Too few of the individual episodes broke white-and-black.

Tevez capped another good counter by putting it over the crossbar. The former two can console themselves with their umpteenth European Cup (and for the Brazilian, that contract offer is still on the table)..

Sometimes though, there is nothing better than a dodged bullet to restore your spirits. But for every half chance, Barca found a real one.

Juventus manager Max Allegri’s initial idea seemed a good one, for at least 180 seconds. This was one. But we’ll get back to the that.

Allegri went all in, sending on Fernando Llorente and Kingsley Coman in what he hoped would be a desperate siege. In this very stadium, in fact, nine years ago.

Juventus had planned for Messi. But Pogba can write his own future, just as Pirlo wrote his own past. They knew it was always going to be a question of either individual episodes or Barca underperforming. A few minutes later, Pogba pounded the turf in anger. It was one of those calls by the official behind the goal and one that, inevitably, reopened the voluntary/involuntary handball can of worms on social media. It’s not just selflessness, it’s purposeful selflessness. And that’s a treat. 

ESPN FC’s Craig Burley highlights Barcelona’s attacking ferocity being key in defeating a resilient Juventus side to claim the Champions League title. Would there be others?

But it was the fourth minute when Barcelona took the lead, following a move that, appropriately, involved all 10 outfield players. The problem is that, sometimes, there is no game plan when the Big Bad Wolf is at the door and you live in a straw house. The score was 2-1 and order was restored to the Barca world.

Despite Juventus’ spirited second-half push, it was Luis Suarez and Barcelona who could not be denied yet another Champions League crown. (Fortunately, given that it ended up being entirely irrelevant to the outcome, we can have this debate another time.)

This is how — unless you have a rooting interest — you want your finals to be: exciting, open, both teams doing themselves proud, but also with a clear-cut finish and the most deserving team winning.

Juventus must have known that, in a game like this, it was going to be about incidents going your way. Fourteen minutes in, Juventus keeper Gigi Buffon showed just why some think he can stop not just footballs, but Father Time as well.

BERLIN — Sometimes, it all comes together.

As if to re-establish order, it was Barcelona who ended the half on a high. Or, in this case, even if you live in a reinforced concrete bunker and Messi, Neymar and Suarez come knocking.

For Juventus, this match ought to be a reminder that big teams think and act like big teams, even when faced with bigger and better ones. Yeah, you’d think so. Both players were gutted. Luis Enrique reminding his men that it was time to kill the game.

Barcelona fans celebrate following Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final. He collected the ball in his usual wide area, then sent off on an arcing rainbow of a run, exchanging the ball first with Neymar, then with Suarez. He and Dani Alves had tied themselves up in a human pretzel. He did stop the Argentine’s shot, but only as far as Suarez, who was quicker to react than Patrice Evra. It may seem hard to believe today, but for much of the past half-century, Barca were the great underachievers: eight league titles and one European Cup between 1960 and 2004 tell their own story.

The result was an engrossing, entertaining 94 minutes of high-end football, which began under the yellow-red Berlin sunset and ended under squid ink skies, the light from the stadium drowning out even the stars, possibly because they were on the pitch.

Messi raced back the other way on the counter and, this time, Buffon ran out of miracles. Truth be told, Juventus had their spots, as Javier Mascherano was rattled and Carlos Tevez fired high.

That goal epitomized the whole collective/individual thing that Barcelona do as well as anyone. Barca did not disappoint. That reflex save on Dani Alves — 37-year-old body diving right, mighty left hand rising left to keep out the finish — was special.

In the stadium where Jesse Owens broke records and Zinedine Zidane butted heads, the best club team in the world was crowned champion of Europe, defeating Juventus 3-1 in the Olympic Stadium. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.

Rather, Barcelona did it “their way” in the sense of the Luis Enrique Way — following a blueprint based around an otherworldly front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez that at once exalts the individual but is equally predicated on the collective. It’s teamwork in which the parts aren’t interchangeable because some guys can do things other cannot, but when it works it’s much greater than the sum of its parts and suddenly there is plenty of canvas for the genius on which to paint.

In Berlin, it was Barca, just as it has been over the course of the campaign. Press high early and see if you can nick an early goal. Replays showed the ball did hit his head but, immediately thereafter, his hand. Suarez’s diagonal finish ending just wide and a video game-style run from Messi, in which he beat three opponents before clattering into Leonardo Bonucci.

Juve weathered the onslaught and tried what it could to press.

And kill the game Barcelona very nearly did, proving that Allegri was wrong: it was going to get worse before it got better. Allegri perhaps telling his players that they survived the worst of it and they were still in it. They did it their way. Replays suggested there was mutual grabbing but, as they say, you’ve seen them given.

You try to imagine what might have been said at half-time in either dressing room. Messi’s finish was wide of the mark, but the sequence was about as breathtaking as his run to end the first half or, indeed, the opening goal.

Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN FC, The Times and Corriere dello Sport. Or, for that matter, most of the past 11 years, a time frame that yielded seven Liga crowns, four Champions League titles and two Trebles. Some outstanding work from Marchisio teed up Tevez. The highlight? It’s a toss-up between Messi’s laser-guided crossfield pass to Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta’s shimmy that turned Arturo Vidal into Job’s wife, allowing him to ghost into the box and lay it off for Ivan Rakitic, who finished the sequence.

The night ended with exhilaration at one of the better finals in recent memory, but also with a twinge of sadness at the stars we likely won’t see again at this level: Xavi definitely, possibly Dani Alves and Andrea Pirlo. Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen could only deflect his thunderous strike and Morata was there to tuck it away.

Now they are the gold standard. To be fair, that’s what they’ve done virtually all season long. Buffon produced another high-end near post save from Suarez and then Messi had another virtuoso moment.

What followed was a battering that rattled Juventus, none more so than Vidal, who was exceptionally lucky to stay on the pitch

Posted August 10th, 2015 in Uncategorized.

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