FC Barcelona have been crowned European champions for the fifth time – and the fourth in the past ten years – after seeing off a determined Juventus challenge in Berlin.
In an unusually open start to a final, Juve might have scored themselves before Barça did, Ivan Rakitić rounding off a slick passing move in the fourth minute. For a while the roof looked set to fall in on Juve, Gianluigi Buffon producing a sensational stop to deny Daniel Alves – yet the Italian champions are nothing if not obdurate and drew level ten minutes into the second half through Álvaro Morata. Now it was Barcelona under pressure, but Luis Suárez restored their advantage and, with Juve throwing everything forward, Neymar blasted in a third with the final kick of the game.
The final began at breakneck speed and both teams might have scored twice inside the first ten minutes. First, Paul Pogba failed to connect with a header and then Arturo Vidal fired over after sterling work down the Juve right from Morata. By then, however, the Bianconeri were behind, undone by a typical Barcelona move.
Lionel Messi’s crossfield pass to Jordi Alba wrongfooted the Juve defence and, though it looked like the chance had gone when Neymar’s touch carried him away from goal, the Brazilian turned and found Andrés Iniesta. A touch into the path of Rakitić and Barcelona were ahead, Iniesta the first player to provide assists in three UEFA Champions League finals and Barcelona notching their 29th goal in this season’s competition – just the fourth not scored by Messi, Suárez or Neymar.
It could quickly have got worse for Juve, Neymar shooting just too high, and soon after it took an astounding reaction stop from Gianluigi Buffon to keep it at 1-0. The 37-year-old looked to have been sent the wrong way by Daniel Alves’ shot, yet stuck out a left hand to parry – a stop that drew gasps and applause from both ends of the crowd when it was replayed on the big screen – and then got a touch of fortune as Messi’s follow-up header landed on the roof of his net rather than dropping under the crossbar.
Rakitić’s clever low corner found Alba for a shot that flew over, before Juve finally got a foothold in the game. Pogba, an increasingly prominent presence as the half wore on, would have picked out Morata but for a crucial Javier Mascherano interception, while Morata curled an effort past the post as Juve pressed high.
Barça, however, were equally adept at pressuring the Juventus defence and came within centimetres of extending their lead before half-time as Suárez’s shot flicked the outside of Buffon’s post. The goalkeeper then pushed an effort from the Uruguay striker over the crossbar to ensure there was only a goal between the sides at the break.
Four minutes after the interval, Buffon came to Juve’s rescue again, after Barcelona had broken at lightning speed. Rakitić slid in Suárez, but Buffon stood tall and blocked at the near post. Suárez and Messi fired just too high as Barça threatened to take command – yet instead the next goal came from the team in black and white…..
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