Barcelona’s brilliant forward trio came to the fore to see off a spirited Juventus side and take the Champions League title in a 3-1 win in Saturday’s final in Berlin. Juventus had pulled level in an engrossing contest when Alvaro Morata canceled out Ivan Rakitic’s fourth-minute opener early in the second half. But Barcelona’s devastating front three was to prove too much to handle, with Luis Suárez following in Lionel Messi’s shot to put the Spanish champions in front, before Neymar sealed the victory deep into injury time.
Juventus had shown admirable resilience to get back into a game in which it was firmly on the back foot for large periods. And players felt they should have had a chance to go in front when Paul Pogba went down under Dani Alves’ challenge in the penalty box midway through the second half. But seconds later Barcelona once again showed just how deadly it is in attack when Messi broke forward and fired a shot that, although repelled by Gianluigi Buffon, allowed Suarez to follow in and fire into the roof of the net. Neymar thought he had made the result secure soon after, only to see his effort ruled out after his header came off his arm. But the Brazilian was not to be denied netting the 122nd goal between the trident in all competitions this season to see off Juventus and match the treble achievement of Pep Guardiola six years ago, his first season in charge.
And that represents some achievement and some turnaround for coach Luis Enrique. Just five months ago his chances of seeing out the season appeared questionable after a bust-up with Messi and criticism about the team’s style, or lack of it. Instead he led Barcelona to 31 wins in its final 35 matches to take a clean sweep of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles in a historic season.
It was a dream ending, too, for Xavi, who came off the bench to make his final appearance for Barcelona, which ended with him holding the trophy aloft for a fourth time. On the other side, another of Europe’s great midfielders of the past decade, Andrea Pirlo, also perhaps bidding farewell this summer, had tears in his eyes at the final whistle.
For Juventus and its veteran midfielder, this was a gut-wrenching finale. But it can look back proudly, not only on the performance in giving a Barcelona team with obviously superior talent a real run for its money, but on what has been a season to remember for the Turin side. Like Enrique, Massimiliano Allegri faced plenty of doubters early in his debut season in charge, but he won the critics over to come within a whisker of winning the club’s first-ever treble and firmly put Juventus back among Europe’s elite.
That looked a long way off in the opening stages at the Olympiastadion. Juventus simply failed to come to grips with the challenge of taking on Barcelona early, and before realizing it, the Italian champions were behind. It was a superb team goal that did the damage, with Messi, Jordi Alba, Neymar and Andres Iniesta all playing a key past as Juventus failed to track their men. The move culminated with Iniesta finding Rakitic, who beat Gianluigi Buffon with a first-time shot. It took a sensational one-handed save from Buffon shortly after just to keep a Juventus side that was firmly on the ropes upright.
But slowly Juventus began to settle. Closing down the space better without the ball, Juventus also gave enough indication it could cause Barcelona’s defense problems. Still, the second half began with Barcelona again pushing for a second goal, only for Juventus to pull level. Juventus had shown similar ability to fight back against the odds when coming from behind against Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal, and it was the man who pulled them level at the Bernabeu who did so again in Berlin. After his forward partner Carlos Tevez had a low shot kept out by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the former Real Madrid striker pounced to pull Juventus level against the odds.
The team, which was back in its first Champions League final since 2003, was now giving as good as it got. But immediately after players thought they should have had a penalty, the two-time European champions were undone on the break. Buffon could only parry Messi’s shot back into the danger zone and Suarez was quickest to react, putting the cap on a dream first season at the club. Juventus caused a couple of nervy moments at the back for its opponents, but Barcelona’s ability on the counter-attack always loomed large. And it delivered in the seventh minute of injury time to give Neymar the chance to make it 3-1 with the final kick of the game.