In the first ever June Champions League Final, in the first Champions League Final in which both sides came in with a domestic double, Barcelona were able to win the most prestigious club trophy and complete the seventh treble in football history, an unprecedented second for the Catalans. In a brilliant match that saw both teams perform at an incredibly high level, Barcelona just had too much firepower upfront. The scoring started early with Rakitić drawing first blood, in what would prove to be the only goal of the first half. Juventus would equalize quickly in the second half, but goals from Luis Suarez and Neymar were the difference on this fantastic send off to the 2014-2015 season.
|Shots on Target||6
Both teams started the match with lineups that they were expected to field. Luis Enrique didn’t have a single injury to worry about, Andres Iniesta was a doubt for the Final for all of about three hours, and sent out the same eleven that won Barcelona the Copa del Rey one week ago. In fact, the entire 18-man match squad was the same as on Saturday. Marc-Andre ter Stegen was in goal, while Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba played in front of him. The midfield was formed by Sergio Busquets, Rakitić and Andres Iniesta, and up front we saw the deadly trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Massimiliano Allegri had some more selection headaches. While Martín Cáceres, Romulo and Kwadwo Asamoah were ruled out long before Juventus reached the Final, Giorgio Chiellini picked up a calf injury just two days before the biggest game of the club season. Chiellini was replaced by the veteran Andrea Barzagli, who was joined in the heart of the defense by Leonardo Bonucci. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra filled in on the flanks of the back-four that played in front of Gianluigi Buffon. Allegri again opted for a diamond midfield with Andrea Pirlo at defensive midfielder, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba pushed to the sides with Arturo Vidal closest to Carlos Tevez and Álvaro Morata, the two strikers.
Players were welcomed to an amazing atmosphere and a beautiful choreography that was set up at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. Prior to the match, the Juventus players came on the pitch to warm up much earlier than the Barcelona squad did, but both sides looked up to the task when the game kicked off. Juventus started the match from the midfield circle, but even though the Italians quickly lost the ball, it was Juve who would get the first shot off just 51 seconds in. It was rough start for Mascherano who was guilty of the turnover that led to the shot, which didn’t trouble ter Stegen, and less than a minute later, poor control by the Argentine led to a corner kick, but Barcelona were able to defuse the situation.
The late start to the warm-up session might have caused the two hiccups by El Jefecito as he maybe wasn’t fully able to familiarize himself with the state of the pitch this night, which later led to a boot-change, but his teammates didn’t have such problems. Actually, his teammates looked extremely deadly and were able to cap off a lovely combination on the left side with a goal just over three minutes after the opening whistle. Messi started the play from midfield with a long pass to the left wing to Alba who pushed the ball to Neymar to his right. Neymar carved up the Juventus defense with a stunning ball to Iniesta who sent a similarly deadly pass further to the middle to Rakitić who finished the play off with a calm finish out of reach of Buffon and into the back of the net.
While Barcelona were clearly superior on the pitch, Juventus were able to launch the occasional dangerous counter attack that caused problems to the Barcelona back-line, especially Mascherano who struggled with his foot-wear. In the 8th minute, Morata spearheaded a Juventus attack with a long run. After dribbling past Mascherano, Morata passed the ball to Vidal who fired off a quick shot, but his aim was poor and didn’t trouble ter Stegen. Vidal was especially active in the early minutes, but probably not for the reasons Allegri hoped for, as he picked up three quick fouls that earned him a yellow card.
Then came the 13th minute that saw Barcelona create three excellent scoring chances, but Juventus were, somehow, able to keep their deficit just to a single goal. First, Suarez produced a lovely turn on the edge of the area, but Barzagli was at the last second able to clear the ball away with a diving tackle. Then Messi sent a stunning long pass to the area, hoping to find the onrushing Neymar, but the ball was just out of the Brazilian’s reach. Barcelona’s best chance of the minute was the last one - Suarez made most of the work with a lovely run down the right side before sending a perfect back-pass to a wide open Alves. Alves wasted no time and immediately fired a powerful shot on target, but Buffon, even though he was badly screened by his teammates, was able to reach out with his left arm make the save.
Barcelona continued to push forward to double their lead and three minutes later the Catalans would create another chances, this one from a corner kick. Rakitić sent the ball into the area to the rushing Alba, on what was a clear set play, but the speedy left-back couldn’t direct the ball on target.
As expected from a European giant that fought their way to the Champions League Final, Juventus wouldn’t just succumb to their fate after going down by a goal early, and the Italians indeed pushed strongly for the equalizer around the 20 minute mark. Their first good sequence of play came in the 19th minute when Pogba tried to supply long diagonal pass to the danger area to a waiting teammate, but with a diving play Mascherano cleared the ball from play for a corner kick. Juve wouldn’t threaten from the set piece, but five minute later, after another turnover deep in Barcelona’s area, Morata would have the best look on goal of any Juve player to that point, but under pressure from Alba the young Spaniard couldn’t direct the shot on goal.
That period stopped Barcelona’s onslaught which slowed the tempo of play and neither side was able to assert they style of play. Neither also managed to create any clear-cut chances for about fifteen minutes, only Neymar was able to send a rather tame shot straight into the hands of Buffon, though Juventus would create some danger in the 35th minute after another defensive turnover by Barcelona. While Juve wouldn’t create a chance from that play, Alba would stop Pogba with a tackle that saw referee Cüneyt Cakir hear some heavy words from numerous Juventus players, but it was another example of how Barcelona could be their biggest enemy on this night in Berlin. It was the third situation in which a Barcelona turnover led to a chance for Juventus.
Barcelona would push for a late goal to increase their lead shortly before the whistle, as they have done so many times this season, either the half-time whistle or the full-time whistle. First, in the 39th minute, Suarez went on a lovely solo run down the right side before firing a low toe-shot out of the reach of Buffon but also just inches wide of the far post. Quickly thereafter a Neymar steal would launch a Barcelona counterattack. The Brazilian played a one-two with Suarez but Neymar wasn’t able to find a wide open Messi on the far side with the pass. The blocked pass would, however, fall to Suarez who quickly fired on goal, but Buffon was there to make a save. In the 44th minute Buffon would commit a turnover, but once again Neymar couldn’t send a good cross to the middle where Suarez was waiting unmarked.
The last chance of the half would go to Juventus though, who would for the first time test ter Stegen, though Juve again couldn’t get close to the goal and were limited to shots from distance. The first shot came from Vidal, but Pique was in the perfect spot to make the block, while the second came from that rebound by Marchisio, though the shot was too central to cause any problems to the German in the Barcelona goal.
Cakir whistled for halftime immediately after the clock hit the 45 minute mark to send a very open match to the break. Barcelona were arguably the better team on the pitch, but this was still anybody’s game.
Neither team made any substitutions during halftime, and while Barcelona would launch the first attack of the half it would be Juventus who would threaten first. Barcelona dealt with both set pieces, a free kick and a corner kick, brilliantly and were able to launch one of their now surely trademark counterattacks from the latter. Rakitić picked up the ball deep in his area and carried it to the very edge of the Juve penalty area when he sent a timely pass to his left to Suarez who sent a powerful first-touch shot that appeared destined to go just inside the near post. But Buffon had a different plans, diving to his right to make a brilliant save.
Juventus might not have made Barcelona pay for all the misses in the first half, but they didn’t make that same mistake again in the second. Marchisio opened up Barcelona’s defense with a brilliant back-heel to throw both Neymar and Alba out of play. As a result of that, the entire Barcelona defense had to shift to the left and when the ball came to Tevez in the middle he was covered by Pique, and not Mascherano. Tevez showed great technique to win space to send a powerful shot on goal, but ter Stegen somehow kept the shot out. The rebound, however, went back in play, straight to the waiting Morata, who because Pique shifted to his left and Alves offered support to his teammate was now left uncovered, and with ter Stegen down Morata was left with a simple finish.
The goal caught Barcelona by surprise and sent momentum Juventus’ way who quickly tried to complete the turnaround with a quick-fire double. Barcelona’s defense struggled to get their composure back, especially defensively, where the Catalans had difficulties to set up a defensive line. That period didn’t necessarily last long and Juventus didn’t create any clear-cut chances, but it was a signal that the Italians will play a much more attacking half.
Where the biggest difference compared to the first half came was in midfield where the Juventus quartet offered much more support in attack, and Barcelona struggled to account for every Juve player. Continuously Juventus were buzzing around the Barcelona penalty area, but the final pass from the Italians was lacking. They did, however, still threaten from distance, like in the 63th when Tevez was left alone 18-yards from goal, but his aim was poor.
Five minutes later, Barcelona restored their lead through Suarez. On yet another quick counter attack Barcelona had more players in attack than Juventus had defenders. Messi took advantage of that, taking the Juve defense head on and sent a low shot on goal. Buffon was able to push the ball away, but straight into the path of Suarez who, similarly to Morata on the other side, was left with a simple finish.
The extremely high tempo of the game continued, with Barcelona seemingly baiting Juventus forward a little so that they themselves could launch counters. It was a plan that on numerous occasions worked very well, but it was a plan that lacked the end touch. It appeared that it got that in the 71st minute when Alba did brilliantly to lead the Barcelona attack before sending a perfect cross to the middle, right onto the head of Neymar. But Neymar’s header was terrible, he barely redirected the ball with his head, directing it into his hand and into the back of the net. Barcelona players were quick to start celebrating, but Cakir, at the instruction of the referee behind the goal, disallowed the goal for handball.
In the 77st minute Lucho made his first substitutions of the game, taking off the not-fully-fit Iniesta and replaced him with the Barcelona legend making his last ever club appearance, Xavi. Two minutes later Allegri made his first chance, replacing Vidal, who was at this point very close to a second yellow card, with Roberto Pereyra.
Xavi, meanwhile, took the job of orchestrator and Barcelona quickly created a good chance in the 81st minute after a stunning over the top pass by Rakitić to Pique, but from the turn the defender was unable to test Buffon.
While Barcelona continued to buzz on the pitch and created a couple half-chances, it were Juventus who created the bulk of the chances in the last stages of the game. Allegri also made two attacking substations, taking off Morata and the injured Evra for Fernando Llorente and Kingsley Coman. Two of the substitutes, Llorente and Pereyra were quick to combine for a chance, in the 85th minute, but the Argentine was unable to get a shot off.
Four minutes later, Marchisio fired another very good shot from distance that would’ve squeaked just inside the post, but ter Stegen was able to tip the ball out for a corner kick. At the end of regular time the 4th referee signaled for five minutes of added time even though there weren’t any long stoppages and that only four substitutions were made. Barcelona quickly started wasting time and made two substitutions of their own, Mathieu and Pedro replaced Rakitić and Suarez.
Juve were relentless in pressure, but Barcelona were equally brilliant in taking time off the clock and keeping Juventus on the perimeter. The Italians just couldn’t break down the Barcelona defense and the Catalans were just waiting for the chance to carry the ball as far away from their goal as quickly as possible. Furthermore, Messi and Neymar were able to steal over a minute by holding the ball at their feet near the corner flag. But to cap off the Champions League Final, in the 97th minute, Barcelona went on another counter, with Messi sending Neymar through. Neymar sent the ball to Pedro who quickly passed the ball back to the Brazilian who finished the chance off with aplomb, resulting in pandemonium on the pitch and in the Barcelona part of the stands.
During the celebrations, Cakir whistled for the full-time, and Barcelona were able to celebrate their fifth European title in the perfect way to send off the legend that is Xavi.
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