Jun 08, 2015

    Barca in a league of their own after 2nd treble feat


    LUIS Suarez and Neymar scored second-half goals to give Barcelona a 3-1 Champions League final victory over Juventus on Saturday.

    Luis Enrique capped his first season as Barcelona's head coach by matching Pep Guardiola's feat from the 2008/09 season, when the Catalans captured the European, Spanish league and cup titles.

    An early goal by Barca's Ivan Rakitic was cancelled out by Juventus' former Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, who equalised on 55 minutes.

    But Suarez put the game beyond the Italian champions with a 68th-minute strike off a rebound at Berlin's Olympic Stadium. Neymar added the third with the last kick of the game in the 97th minute.

    Juventus suffered the indignation of becoming the first team to lose six European Cup finals, 30 years after winning the trophy for the first time amid the tragedy of the Heysel Stadium disaster.

    This was the fifth time Barcelona have been crowned European champions, and it is their fourth Champions League title in the last decade after their 2006, 2009 and 2011 triumphs.

    On the streets of Barcelona, where you could have heard a pin drop during the final, thousands of ecstatic fans - dressed in their team colours of blue and red - celebrated with cheers, chants and firecrackers.

    "It's a dream, I still can't believe it!" said 23-year-old student Eduard Ocana in the Catalan capital, as cries of "Champions, champions!" echoed around the famous party street of Las Ramblas.

    For Suarez, it was a triumphant end to a first season with the Spanish champions after his ignominious biting ban at the World Cup.

    "It's incredible, it's something unique. To win these trophies, you have to suffer," he said.

    "The best thing about this side is the spirit and the fact we've been united since the start of the season."

    In 2009, Barcelona joined the elite club of treble winners that include Celtic, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. Now, they are the first to have done that twice.

    Despite brief moments of magic, Lionel Messi failed to become the first player to score in three Champions League finals as he equalled Dutch star Clarence Seedorf's tally of four winners' medals.

    Barcelona showed early nerves with two uncustomary mistakes in defence straight from kick-off, before Rakitic gave the Catalan giants the lead with just four minutes gone.

    Neymar fed his captain Andres Iniesta from the left wing and the Spain international squared for Rakitic to drill home from close range, past Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon.

    Juve came back into the game midway through the first half, but Suarez forced Buffon - who failed to claim a winners' medal on the 12th attempt - into another save as it finished 1-0 at the break.

    Juve got the equaliser they had threatened when defender Stephan Lichtsteiner's cross found Carlos Tevez, whose shot was parried by Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, only for Morata to rifle home the loose ball on 55 minutes.

    It was the former Real striker's first goal against Barcelona despite four years at the Bernabeu, having left Madrid last year.

    The goal breathed life back into Juve's ambitions, but it was a touch of Messi magic which led to the decisive goal.

    The Argentina international attacked the Juve defence with a mazy run and although Buffon blocked his shot, Suarez fired home the rebound on 68 minutes.

    Xavi Hernandez came on for his final game in the Barca shirt in the dying stages, as he made history with a record 151st Champions League appearance before joining Qatari side Al Sadd next season.

    "To leave this way is brutal," said the Spain international, who lost his place in the starting side to Rakitic this season.

    The scene was set for Neymar to cap his first Champions League final with Barcelona's third just before the final whistle.

    Juventus were devastated after their fightback, but hailed the achievement of coach Massimiliano Allegri in getting the team to the final during his first season in charge, beating Real in the semis.

    "You gave us a dream. Thanks, mister," said Juventus' official Twitter account.