Goals from Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suárez and Neymar Jr earned Barça a deserved 3-1 win over Juventus in Berlin tonight to clinch the club‘s fifth European Cup while becoming the first ever club to complete two trebles of the Champions League and domestic league and cup. Rakitic took less than four minutes to open the scoring and many at this point might have expected an easy victory for the blaugrana. However, Juventus held on and hit back with an equalizer from Alvaro Morata ten minutes into the second half which set up a brief spell of dominance from the Italians. Then just as Barça’s triplete looked like it might be slipping away, Suárez pounced to put the Catalans back in front and Neymar completed the victory in injury time with the last kick of the game.
Both teams started as expected. Juventus in a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield and Barça playing the traditional 4-3-3. Barça started nervously with two early slips from Mascherano that saw the Argentinian immediately call for a change of boots. The sense of unease was quickly dispelled as Barça’s first attack led to Rakitic’s goal. The build-up was typically Barça, with the ball moving from the left touchline to the right and back again in a patient advance, Neymar played the ball back inside and Busquets moved the ball on through Alves to Messi 40 yards out and he sent typical long cross-field pass to the advancing Alba who volleyed a first-time pass inside to Neymar. The Brazilian controlled and shimmied both ways before spotting Iniesta’s run, the pass was perfect and Iniesta took the ball in his stride before squaring to Rakitic who swept the ball home from eight yards.
Vidal shot over after Morata got past Alba but Juve generally looked shocked by the early goal. Barça went for the kill and might have had a penalty when Neymar’s cross hit Lichtsteiner’s hand but the Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir correctly saw it as unintentional. Shortly after, Messi fed Neymar who made a short run but flashed his shot narrowly wide, and as Barça piled on the pressure Suárez burst into the area on the right before pulling the ball back to Dani Alves who was only denied a goal by Buffon changing direction to make a magnificent save.
Vidal had already been booked for a foul on Busquets in the 11th minute and he was fortunate not to get a second three minutes later after bringing down Neymar. Juve looked rattled still and their defence failed to pick-up Alba for a low corner but the Barça left-back hoofed his shot well over.
Barça might have come to regret not adding another goal in this early spell of total dominance as little by little Juve began to play their way back into the game. It was subtle at first with a run from Pogba up the left and a cross from Tevez to nobody but when Morata fired a half-chance wide in the 24th minute it was obvious the game was far from over.
A poor defensive header from Evra gave Neymar the opportunity to shoot straight at Buffon but the chances started to dry up as Juve began to find their shape. In the 35th minute Ter Stegen sent an awkward kick to Alves who was caught by Tevez who moved the ball on to Pogba who went down on the edge of the area after Alba’s challenge. The ref waved play on and the replay showed if it had been a foul it was definitely outside the box.
Barça ended the half strongly with Suárez shooting twice in quick succession. The first whizzed narrowly wide of the far post and the second forced Buffon to push the ball round the post. The Italian keeper then made a hash of a clearance, kicking the ball straight to Neymar on the left but his cross was just too high for Suárez. Juve reacted with Marchisio firing a powerful 25-yarder but Ter Stegen was well-positioned to save. Then just before the break, Messi went on a sensational run past Pogba and Evra only to run the ball out of play before he could cross.
Neymar came close to scoring early in the second half when Suárez’s headed clearance from a Juve corner led to a five-against-three break for Barça. Rakitic brought the ball forward before slipping the ball to his left to Neymar who stabbed his shot towards the near post but Buffon made another good save. Suárez then lashed another shot wide after a poor clearance, and in the 51st minute Messi combined brilliantly first with Neymar then with Suárez before blasting his shot wide.
Barça’s failure to add a second goal was punished when Juventus equalized four minutes later. Alves sent a long ball out of defence in the direction of Neymar but Lichtsteiner pounced to take possession and then Marchisio freed the Swiss full-back with a neat back-heel. Lichtsteiner then centred to Tevez who turned and shot, Ter Stegen dived to his left to save but Morata was following-up to score before the Barça keeper could recover.
Juventus will have remembered their semi-final at the Bernabéu when a second-half recovery got them into the final. The Italians began to look the better team with Morata heading wide from Pirlo’s free-kick and Tevez shooting over after a good break from Marchisio. Barça tried to react but Iniesta’s pass was just too long for Suárez, then Pogba fired from distance straight at Ter Stegen, and soon after, Evra’s cross was just too high for Tevez.
As Juve continued to push forward Pogba appealed again for a penalty but Alves’s clumsy challenge looked fair. Then Barça came forward with Rakitic finding Messi ten yards inside the Juve half. The Argentinian had intent in his eyes and he burst forward to the edge of the area before unleashing a powerful low shot that was too hot for Buffon to hold, Suárez was quickest to the rebound, firing the ball high into the net from six yards.
Three minutes later Buffon was beaten again only for Neymar’s goal to be ruled out because his glanced header from Alba’s cross took a deflection off his forearm. Ter Stegen then had his biggest scare when he punched a cross straight against Alves’s head and was fortunate to see the ball fly over the crossbar.
It was Barça last dodgy moment and Juve only managed two final shot on goal in the 89th minute, a 30-yard low drive from Marchisio that Ter Stegen turned round the post, and an injury-time drive from Tevez straight at the German keeper. Besides that it was Barça who looked closer to another goal and only slips on the surface from Alba and Messi prevented decent attacks being completed. Xavi came on for his final Barça performance and helped to maintain control while Piqué not only dominated at the back but he also began to lead the counter-attacking charge.
The five minutes injury time stretched to seven as Barça brought on Mathieu and then Pedro. Right at the end Piqué headed another high ball clear to Messi who swept the ball forward to send Neymar clear. The Brazilian got the ball caught under his feet a bit but managed to send a pass to Pedro before drifting left to receive Pedro’s return and firing a low shot past Buffon. The players ran to celebrate with the Barça fans behind the goal as the ref blew for full time. Xavi had the perfect end to his Barça career, receiving the cup from Michael Platini with the match ball stuffed under his blaugrana shirt. The fiesta then began and it will go long into the night.
Juventus proved to be a very tough opponent but Barça’s talent proved to be too much in the end. Messi, Suárez and Neymar were again unstoppable but there was magnificent support from Rakitic, Busquets and Iniesta in midfield. The defence was generally solid despite a couple of slips, with Piqué standing out with a commanding performance. In the end the entire squad deserves credit for an extraordinary season without forgetting the magnificent work of Luis Enrique, Juan Carlos Unzue and the rest of the back-up team.
Congratulations Culés! Copa, Liga and Champions! Enjoy! Rejoice! Dance the night away! Doing it once in 2009 was sensational, sublime and the culmination of a magnificent first season under Pep Guardiola. Doing it again six years later is the crowning glory, the pinnacle for Xavi’s last act and the confirmation that Barça are once again the best team in Europe.
Juventus: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Barzagli, Evra (Coman m89); Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba; Vidal (Pereyra m79); Tevez, Morata (Llorente m85).
Barça: Ter Stegen 7.5; Alves 8, Piqué 9, Mascherano 7.5, Alba 7.5; Rakitic 8.5 (Mathieu m91, –), Busquets 8.5, Iniesta 9 (Xavi m78, 7); Messi 9.5, Suárez 8.5 (Pedro m96, –), Neymar 8.5.
Goals: m4 Rakitic 0-1, m55 Morata 1-1, m68 Suárez 1-2, m97 Neymar 1-3
Yellow cards: m11 Vidal, m41 Pogba, m70 Suárez,