On the last stop of a yearlong journey that ended at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, an instant classic of a match occurred. Barcelona defeated Juventus by a score of 3-1 to win the UEFA Champions League final in a match that did not lack emotion and intensity.
This match was contested by two teams with opposing play styles. Juventus is a strong defensive team, having only allowed six goals during the UEFA Champions League competition this year. Barcelona is a team that has arguably the best attacking trio in the history of soccer, with Neymar, Lionel Messi, and Luis Suárez. Those three had scored 120 goals in all competitions this season coming into this match, more than the whole Juventus squad, who scored 103.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri discussed the hardship that is defending the Barcelona frontline, and the need to attack “Messi, Neymar, Suárez, it’s the usual question since the semi-final – how do you stop them, how do you stop them? We need to be very skilled but we need to recognize we’re not going to draw; we need to score. How do you stop Barcelona? We need to think how to score. We need to be strong technically because they’re a technical team and attack is their best weapon so we need to be very, very aware of that.”
Preview of the championship match can be found here
Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini was ruled out for this match due to a calf injury. This loss was a big one for a Juventus side which prides itself on defensive prowess. His absence played a major role in Barcelona’s ability to maintain the ball in the opposing third.
The Italian side earned an early foothold in the match, by earning a corner within a minute of kick-off. This turned out to be of little importance, when a sublime 16 pass sequence led to an Ivan Rakitic goal from the penalty spot after just four minutes following a lovely pass by midfielder Andrés Iniesta. Chiellini would have helped that instance in his usual central defensive position.
Juventus looked rattled after the early concession, understandably so, but this was not shown in their play as they gained momentum throughout the first half. While they gained momentum and confidence, they were unable to effectively test the nerves of Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen during the first half.
Arturo Vidal, whose play is crucial for the success of Juventus, earned an early yellow card on a challenge on Sergio Busquets. The Chilean central midfielder played tentatively throughout the rest of the first half, as did Andrea Pirlo, who is expected to move to the MLS. Pirlo played with little conviction and hurt Juventus more than he helped.
Gianluigi Buffon kept Juventus in this match with a couple of marvelous saves. One occurred on a Dani Alves rocket from just outside of the penalty area in the thirteenth minute. Barcelona had continuous opportunities to double their lead, but were unable, due to the ability of Buffon. Their best opportunity was at the beginning of second half after a failed corner by Juventus led to a 5 on 2 counter attack and a great save on a Luis Suárez shot by Buffon.
Barcelona played with great conviction after the failed opportunity, looking to add to their lead and put this match in the bag. This meant nothing when Juventus pushed through for a skillful attack and goal on a rebound by Álvaro Morata coming in the 55th minute. Morata has been the hero throughout this competition for Juventus.
Following the equalizer, both teams played with a considerable addition in intensity looking for the game-winner. Luis Suárez converted a goal in the 68th minute to put his team in the drivers seat after a Lionel Messi shot that Buffon was unable to handle, similar to the Morata goal just minutes before. This goal was followed by a disallowed goal just two minutes later on a Neymar header that fell on to his hand. Barcelona players and fans were disgusted with the call.
This controversial call motivated Barcelona to put this match away by doubling their lead, which they were able to convert in the final minute of play on a breakaway opportunity by Neymar, who receives justice after the upsetting disallowed goal. This goal was the final kick of this classic match An insurance goal ended up being unnecessary for Barcelona as the match finished 3-1.
Lionel Messi was unable to score a goal in this match, which would have made him the highest scoring player in UEFA Champions League history. A goal by Messi also would have made him the only player to have scored in three UEFA Champions League finals. These unimportant statistics mean nothing when you are victorious, like Barcelona was.
[Image Source: Getty Images]