Champions League final: Barca and Juve provide perfect antidote to Fifa stench
Barcelona triumphed over fellow European giants Juventus in a superb Champions League final on Saturday that was the perfect antidote to the stench coming out of Zurich in the wake of the Fifa corruption scandal.sports Updated: Jun 07, 2015 12:03 IST
Barcelona triumphed over fellow European giants Juventus in a superb Champions League final on Saturday that was the perfect antidote to the stench coming out of Zurich in the wake of the Fifa corruption scandal.
Barca's dazzling attacking play and Juve's resilience, which kept them in the game until Neymar wrapped up a 3-1 win in stoppage time, recalled the free-scoring early years of the competition in the 1950s and 1960s and provided a wonderful finale to the 60th season of Uefa's flagship club competition.
From the moment Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic swept Barca ahead in the fourth minute the match held the promise that something special was about to unfold - and it did.
Both teams went looking for goals.
Barca could have had three goals in the first 15 minutes, Juventus, once they settled, created several chances and could easily have scored more than the one goal they got.
As if to underline that the game is about putting the ball in the net and not envelopes in back pockets, three times in the second half Barcelona broke with five men streaming forwards.
Lionel Messi, who for once failed to score, Luis Suarez, who did after 68 minutes, and Neymar, who added the third, ended the season with a staggering 122 goals between them.
Their brilliance in front of goal has brought Barca a fifth European crown and their second treble in seven seasons, but the real key to the game's majesty was that Juventus were still in with a chance until Neymar scored with the last kick.
The Italians were undone for the first goal by a move, involving 16 passes in the build-up, that included all 10 of Barca's outfield players as Andres Iniesta provided the final ball for Rakitic to sweep past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
But Juve forwards Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata continually threatened to produce something and finally did after 55 minutes when Barca's German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen parried Tevez's shot but was unable to stop Morata following up on the rebound.
Juve's joy did not last long, though, as Suarez scored 13 minutes later when he also pounced on a rebound to make it 2-1.
Almost a year ago, Suarez was the most vilified man in football after biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, but he found redemption with what looked like the winner until Neymar arrowed in the third.
Barca's defence, with Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano outstanding, was also inspired on the night, and it had to be.
The Italian double winners served up some wonderful inter-passing of their own that recalled some of the glorious movement typical of the Juve team starring Michel Platini in the 1980s.
That side's major honour came on the night of the Heysel Stadium disaster 30 years ago last week when Platini, now Uefa president, scored with a penalty in a 1-0 win over Liverpool.
Although he wished his old club had won on Saturday, there was no mistaking his pleasure in handing Xavi the trophy as Barca's talisman celebrated his last match for the club after more than 750 appearances by lifting the European Cup.
It was a night that in the end belonged to Barcelona but, more importantly perhaps, helped restore the game's reputation after a calamitous two weeks in which it has been reeling from corruption allegations surrounding world governing body Fifa.