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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL

Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 to clinch their 5th European cup

Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 to clinch their 5th European cup

Getty Images

Rakitic, Suarez and Neymar scored for Barça while Alvaro Morata was on target for the Italians.

Barcelona played the fifth symphony in Berlin and won the Champions League trophy by defeating Juventus 3-1, in doing so completing the treble for the second time and becoming the only club in the history of football to achieve the feat. Luis Enrique passed into club legend at the helm of a team that rediscovered its purest form of excellence and that doesn't look as though it will drop below that level while Leo Messi and Andrés Iniesta remain. The Argentinean didn't score but he was the driving force of the Barça attack even in the game's toughest moments, and of those there were a few.

Messi knew at every turn how to adopt the tone that the match required. When Barça needed to attack a closed-down Juventus, Messi dropped back into the engine room and every one of his 30-yard diagonal runs had Juve on the back foot. When Juventus took the game to Barça, Messi was a constant danger on the counter.

Barcelona's opening goal came via the first version of Messi and from the second, Luis Suárez's goal that cancelled out Juve's equalizer. It was clear that one of Juve's great qualities was their chameleonic spirit that allows them to be several different teams during one match. They have a capacity for survival ingrained in their DNA and that was what aided them to get back into the match when initially it appeared it would be a walk in the park for Barça.

The opening two minutes were promising for Juve; Barcelona looked nervous at the back and cleared the ball any way they could while the players slipped on the turf as though it was an ice rink. That continued throughout the night but the nerves dissipated as soon as Messi picked up his first ball, brought Neymar into play, the Brazilian combining with Iniesta, who teed up Ivan Rakitic to hammer past Gianluigi Buffon to send the Barça fans in the Olympic Stadium into delirium.

From there the match appeared all but over, especially as Barcelona put on a show for 15 minutes that must have seemed like hours for Massimiliano Allegri's side. That was when the imposing figure of Buffon came into his own; he might have been caught off guard in Barcelona's first meaningful attack but then he shut up shop and prevented the first half turning into a rout.

While Buffon was proving a wall of steel in front of Neymar and Suárez, Arturo Vidal decided to cut off Barça's attacking verve with some of his own. The Chilean tore around the midfield and floored Barcelona players as though they were wrought of paper. The yellow card the referee produced on 11 minutes did not curb his enthusiasm for the task and he could easily have been sent off before the game reached the half hour mark.

That wasn't the match official's only mistake; on seven minutes he ignored a clear handball by Stephan Lichtsteiner inside the area. Later, Juventus appealed for a penalty on Paul Pogba and he annulled a Barcelona goal for an involuntary handball by Neymar that was far less clear cut than the Swiss defender's.

Buoyed by Buffon's heroics and Vidal's few scruples, Juve were reborn. In the shape of Álvaro Morata they had a wonderful outlet while he was on the pitch and in Pogba who proved that the only way to get a ball off him is to hire Sylvester Stallone's Mercenaries.

At the end of the first half is seemed Barcelona had let their opponents off at the beginning and Juve were in the ascendancy. In the second period, the forecast was confirmed. A glorious break by Barcelona was halted by a titanic Buffon who extended a providential hand to deny Suárez. After Barcelona's initial assault, Juventus found their best side. Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tévez joined the industry being displayed by Morata and Pogba and between them they rustled up the equalizer, which was scored by Morata, a striker who looks set to make his mark on the game.

Barcelona were rocked by the blow and Juve poured forward in a case of "all or nothing," but they had not counted on Messi. The Argentinean launched a lightening break and stung Buffon's hands with a shot the Italy keeper could only parry in to the path of Suárez, who undid with a single strike all of Buffon's good work to that point. From there the game was decided.

Juventus continued to stubbornly resist but Barcelona, with Xavi introduced to the fray, were able to drop back in an ordered retreat and run down the clock as though they were also from Turin. With time running out Juve threw everything upfield in desperation and Neymar put the outcome beyond any doubt in the final move of the match. Barcelona's fifth European Cup triumph means they get to keep the cup, but the team is already a football legend.

 

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