Pedro, Messi and Villa on target as Catalans lift fourth Euro crown.
Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United
UEFA Champions League Final 2011
Saturday 28 May 2011
Barcelona claimed their fourth European Champions crown in style at Wembley Stadium after beating Manchester United with a displays of skill, flair and attacking brilliance that was finished with three sensational goals.
Pedro Rodriguez, man of the match Lionel Messi and David Villa all on target for Pep Guardiola’s team while Wayne Rooney’s excellent first half leveller was all United could muster.
At a venue befitting such an illustrious occasion as the Champions League Final, proclaimed by both manager’s in the prelude to their meeting, the game certainly didn’t disappoint, living up to its pre-match billing.
Both clubs knew what European Cup victory at Wembley tasted like at Wembley after both clinching their maiden wins at the old stadium. Manchester United in 1968, Barca in 1992.
Barcelona began with seven players from the team that beat United 2-0 in the Rome Final two years ago, while United had only three new names on their starting line-up.
And despite being the under-dogs, an unusual position for a side that just six days earlier lifted their 19th English title, United came out flying, with Rooney clearly looking forward to taking on arguably the world’s best team.
It took Barcelona ten minutes to really settle and bring in their golden trio of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Messi and soon carved out a glorious chance as Pedro sneaked onto a Daniel Alves right-hand cross into the six yard box but stabbed his effort wide.
David Villa, who in any normal team would be the star turn, then had a crack from 20 yards as Barca penned United into their own half. The former Valencia man’s effort was close, but not as close as his next try two minutes later. This one called for Edwin van der Sar to make a save and the Dutchman gathered well.
But you could sense something was coming from the Catalans and when, on 27 minutes, skipper Xavi carried the ball into United territory. He waited for the right moment before playing, with the outside of his right boot, across the area to the unmarked Pedro. This time he made no mistake and stroked the ball neatly past a powerless Van der Sar in front of the now silent United end.
But they were not quiet for long as a brilliant United move, instigated and finished by England man Rooney brought his side level on 34 minutes. After playing one-two out on the right with Michael Carrick following a poor Barca throw-in, space opened up before the no.10. Another interchange with Ryan Giggs in the area allowed Rooney to bend a delightful strike away from Victor Valdes and in to the net. Anything you can do, I can do better.
It wasn’t in Barca’s script and somewhat stunned Guardiola’s side. But moments before the half-time break they almost restored their lead when Villa squared across the goalmouth for Messi, but with Vidic and Ferdinand at close quarters, he couldn’t convert the chance.
When the teams returned, Barca had kept United waiting for a moment or two and soon picked up where they left off. Somehow Alves failed to find the back of the net when he was given the run of the right channel, then Messi’s chip from the rebound was cleared away to safety.
But after failing with the subtle approach, he opted for sheer force when Iniesta found him free 30 yards out. Ji-Sung Park gave the Argentinian too much room and before he could do anything about it, the world’s best player had smashed home low from distance, curling the ball away from Van der Sar’s dive. Messi’s first goal on English soil.
United needed a goal, but it was Barcelona that kept coming. Messi again working the Dutch goalkeeper, then having one cleared from the line before Xavi had a crack from twenty yards that Van Der Sar beat away at full stretch. Iniesta’s drive a minute later was just as crisp, but straight at the keeper.
It was wave after wave from La Liga champions and even when Nani came on for Fabio as Ferguson’s first offensive switch, the Portuguese winger’s first touch was into the path of Xavi after Messi had dribbled into the box. The ball was played out to Villa on the 18 yard box and with a sublime swish of his right foot, he caressed his shot beyond Van der Sar’s reach into the top corner.
It gave United just 21 minutes to grab two match-saving goals. Rooney came close with one, similar to Villa’s goal, but his chip hit the top of the net. Nani also tried to respond when he cut in from the right with six minutes remaining and fired towards goal, but Valdes comfortably saw it wide.
Iniesta almost snatched a fourth with a cheeky lob in the injury time but Van der Sar last action for Manchester United was to claim with ease. Nonetheless he and his team mates will be happy with their night in London and once again return from England with the European Cup. Teams
1 Victor Valdes; 22 Eric Abidal, 2 Daniel Alves (5 Carles Puyol, 88), 3 Gerrard Pique, 14 Javier Mascherano; 16 Sergio Busquets, 8 Andres Iniesta, 6 Xavi Hernandez (c); 17 Pedro Rodriguez, (20 Ibrahim Afellay, 90) 7 David Villa (15 Seydou Keita, 86), 10 Lionel MessiSubs not used
38 Oier Olazabal (gk), 9 Bojan Krkic, 21 Adriano, 30 Thiago AlcantaraCoach
Pedro Rodriguez 27, Lionel Messi 54, David Villa 69Manchester United
1 Edwin van der Sar; 20 Fabio (17 Nani, 67), 3 Patrice Evra, 5 Rio Ferdinand, 15 Nemanja Vidic (c); 25 Antonio Valencia, 13 Park Ji-Sung, 16 Michael Carrick (18 Paul Scholes, 77), 11 Ryan Giggs, 10 Wayne Rooney, 14 Javier HernandezSubs not used
29 Tomasz Kuszczak (gk), 7 Michael Owen, 8 Anderson, 12 Chris Smalling, 24 Darren FletcherManager
Sir Alex FergusonGoal
Wayne Rooney 34Referee
Viktor Kassai (HUN)Assistants
Gabor Eros and Gyorgy Ring (HUN)Fourth Official