Barcelona were crowned kings of Europe for the fifth time after beating Juventus 3-1 in a superb Champions League final at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, capping their magnificent season with a treble of titles.
Goals from Ivan Rakitic in the fourth minute, Luis Suarez in the 68th and Brazilian Neymar at the end of stoppage time sealed the Catalans’ second treble, following their feat in 2009, after they also won the La Liga title and Spanish King’s Cup.
It was a triumph for Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, the club’s former Spain international midfielder, in his hugely impressive first season in charge at the Nou Camp.
“It’s incredible, a dream, something unique,” a delighted Suarez told Spanish television. “To win these competitions you have to suffer, if not it’s not worth it, and today we had to suffer to win the match.”
It was the Italians’ who had the bitter taste, though, as Juve, who became the first team in the history of the competition to lose six finals in total, having also now been defeated in their last four.
“We believed we had a chance of pulling off this great feat but we didn’t manage it and the best team won,” said Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. “In football that doesn’t always happen but this time that was the case.”
Barca overcame a nervous start when a sublime combination, in which all 10 outfield players touched the ball, eventually saw Neymar feed captain Andres Iniesta, who picked out Rakitic to score the fourth fastest goal in a European Cup final.
Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who won the World Cup in Berlin’s Olympic stadium in 2006 with Italy, denied Barcelona a second goal in the 13th minute with a superb one-handed save to keep out a Dani Alves shot.
The 38-year-old stopper again came to the rescue three minutes after the restart and Juve then grabbed an equaliser against the run of play through former Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata.
However, Juve’s joy was short-lived as Lionel Messi had an effort that Buffon could only parry to Suarez who followed up with an almost identical goal to the Italians’.
Neymar then had a goal disallowed after his header bounced off his own outstretched hand to deceive the diving Buffon, much to the forward’s frustration.
Juventus, the second oldest team in a European final with an average age of just over 30, fought bravely but ran out of steam as Neymar scored with the last kick in stoppage time.
That goal took the tally for Barca’s Latin American trio of Argentine Messi, Uruguayan Suarez and Brazilian Neymar, known in Spain as ‘MSN’, to a stunning 122 this term in all competitions.
It was also Xavi’s last game for the Catalan club while fellow midfielder Iniesta became the first Barca player to feature in four finals as he equalled Clarence Seedorf’s record of having played on the winning side four times.