UEFA Champions League: Barca crowned champions of Europe

Guardiola completes historic treble with 2-0 win over Manchester United in Rome.

By JEREMY LAST
May 28, 2009 03:55
2 minute read.
UEFA Champions League: Barca crowned champions of Europe

barcelona soccer messi lionel 248. (photo credit: )

 
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As the final whistle sounded in the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night, Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes fell to his knees. With the eyes of the world focused on Rome, FC Barclelona had proved itself to be the best club team in Europe, systematically outplaying Manchester United to win the Champions League final by a commanding 2-0 score line. Samuel Eto'o scored the opener in the 10th minute with a demonstration of superb skill, and Lionel Messi sealed the deal with a powerful header in the 70th. The result completed a stunning first season in charge for Barca manager Pep Guardiola, who had risen from reserve-team coach to take over the first team and win the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League in his first attempt. United's players, who claimed a third-straight Premier League title 10 days earlier, were left to look back at what might have been as they gave up the European title they won a year ago. What was billed as a battle between Man U's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca's Messi turned out to be a far more nuanced match-up. Barcelona proved it had learned its lesson from the semifinals, when it came so close to losing to another British side, Chelsea. This time around, the club managed to soak up the pressure, hold off the quick breaks and push through the near-water tight defense. The match began at a ferocious pace, as was fitting for the occasion. The English champion controlled the opening minutes in the cauldron-like atmosphere of the Olimpico, while Barca continuously gave the ball away, apparently affected by the gravity of the night. Less than a minute had passed when Manchester United's Brazilian midfielder Anderson slipped the ball through Barcelona defender Ya Ya Toure's legs and was blocked to win a free kick. Valdes was unable to hold the save and United won a corner, which came to nothing, but hinted to the attacking nature of the action that was to come. Ronaldo was on fire for United, getting into positive situations all over the final third of the field and picking out three chances in the first five minutes. But the tables were suddenly turned in the 10th minute when Eto'o fired the Spanish champs in front with a stunning goal. The Cameroonian striker galloped into the box after receiving a pass from Andres Iniesta, evaded the challenge of Nemanja Vidic and placed the ball beyond the reach of Edwin Van de Sar in the Manchester net. What began as an extremely open encounter moved into a slower-paced, tactical match as the half drew to a close, with United putting itself behind the ball as Barca attacked, doing its best to ensure it didn't concede again while only pushing up on the break. United hadn't lost a Champions League game for two years and 25 games, since the 2007 semifinal defeat to AC Milan, and wasn't going to give this one up without a fight. But it was Barcelona which came flying out of the blocks in the second half, and it was only a solid Van de Sar block which prevented a twisting and turning Thierry Henry cross from finding Messi unmarked in the six-yard box. When Xavi's long-range free kick clattered against the United goalie's left-hand post eight minutes into the second half, the English were rattled. The Red Devils attempted to break through the Barcelona defense, but were prevented time and again. With 20 minutes to go, Barcelona struck again. Xavi sent in a perfect cross which Messi met with a powerful header, giving Van de Sar little chance and the team in red and blue a 2-0 lead which it wouldn't give up.

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