Juventus 1-3 Barcelona | Champions League final match report

Barcelona lifted the Champions League by beating Juventus 3-1 at the Olympiastadion after Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring

They came in pursuit of what Gerard Piqué called “perfection” and, once again, they left the distinct sense this is the team that takes football to its highest levels. Lionel Messi and his exquisitely gifted team-mates put on a masterclass at times. They did not seem to care they were facing reputedly the best defence in the competition and it was a thrilling way to complete the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and now the trophy that means more to this institution than anything else.

It was not quite perfection, perhaps, bearing in mind that spell in the second half when Álvaro Morata equalised and suddenly, for the first time, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba were emboldened to think they could take control in midfield. That, however, was only a small chunk out of the night. Juventus simply could not cope otherwise with the most devastating forward line on the planet and, on the balance of play, Barça should really have made it a more stress-free occasion before Neymar soothed any lingering nerves with his stoppage-time goal.

That was the final kick of the night but the more important goal came off Suárez’s right boot on 68 minutes, following in after Messi’s shot had come back off Gianluigi Buffon and firing the rebound high into the net. That was Buffon’s one mistake of a night when there were other moments to remind us of his enduring brilliance. Yet there was no way his team-mates could leave him so exposed so many times and expect to get away with it. Either Juventus chose a bad night to forget their defensive structure or Messi et al were just too piercingly brilliant. Or maybe a bit of both. Either way, it was remarkable to see how many times a Juventus side with 27 clean sheets this season looked so vulnerable and overrun.

Messi did everything but score. Andrés Iniesta has now set up goals in three different Champions League finals and what a way for Xavi Hernández to usher himself out of the club he has served with such distinction. Xavi came on as a substitute and it was Ivan Rakitic, the man keeping him out, who scored the opening goal. After the final whistle, there was a lovely moment when Xavi and Pirlo came together in an emotional embrace, knowing they would never play for these clubs again. Soon afterwards, Piqué could be seen taking a pair of scissors to the net and leaving with it as his personal souvenir. The tickertape came down and Barça soaked in their fifth European Cup, bringing them level with Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

Jubilant Barcelona fans gather at Las Ramblas boulevard to celebrate their team beating Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final

Presumably, they were just kidding with everyone when Javier Mascherano gave the ball away inside the opening minute and then seconds later fumbled the ball out of play from a misplaced Sergio Busquets pass. For a very brief period a few of us wondered whether a team of serial champions might not actually be immune to nerves, after all. But it was a deception – and we were ridiculous to think it.

After three minutes, Messi collected the ball and drove a sumptuous pass 20 yards to his left. Jordi Alba turned it inside to Neymar and the momentum was building: a blur of passing and movement and pinball speed. Iniesta had eluded Arturo Vidal and was running into the penalty area. Neymar’s pass was beautifully weighted and the way Iniesta still had the presence of mind to slip the ball inside to Rakitic rather than shooting himself was just another snapshot of this team’s ethic. Every outfield player bar Luis Suárez had been involved in the exchange of passes and, by half-time, the only possible complaint for Barcelona was that their early domination had not transferred into the hard currency of goals.

Buffon made outstanding saves and screamed at his defenders. Messi was passing the ball like there was a computer chip in his boot and Dani Alves slipped the ball through the gap in Vidal’s legs. The nutmeg is football’s most patronising put-down – and Barça’s speciality. For a few moments – only a few moments – even Pirlo looked panicked.

The bianconeri took a long while to shake their head clear and their equaliser 10 minutes into the second half felt almost like a jolt. Claudio Marchisio’s backheel was one of the night’s outstanding moments. Stephan Lichtsteiner, overlapping from right-back, ran on to the ball to set up Carlos Tevez and the rebound fell perfectly for Morata once Marc-André ter Stegen had blocked the initial effort. From six yards, the former Real Madrid player could barely miss.

For a while, Juventus had their opponents rattled. Suárez’s quick instincts turned everything back in Barça’s favour and, after that, there was always the risk that Juventus would leave themselves open in their search for an equaliser. The truth is they had played that way all night. Even at the start of the second half Barcelona were allowed the freedom to launch a five-on-three attack.

Two minutes after Suárez’s goal, a header from Neymar beat Buffon again but was ruled out because the ball had thudded off his forehead on to his outstretched hand. The little Brazilian was a constant menace. His goal was an emphatic left-foot finish, after the Juventus defence had been outnumbered again, and that was the moment the tension was replaced with euphoria.

Barcelona had produced something exhilarating, but what else did we really expect?


Daniel Taylor at the Olympiastadion

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