Manchester united and barcelona clash for european cup; barca brought it home

Manchester United and Barcelona Clash for European Cup; Barca Brought it Home

Tens of thousands flocked to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico for Wednesday night’s clash between England’s Manchester United and Spain’s Barcelona Catalans. A UEFA Champion’s League victory is the most prestigious prize in European football, and both clubs were aching for it.

Only one team, however, would bring the title home, and it was not the favored English team.

Barcelona defeated United 2-0 on Wednesday with an uncommon headed goal from Lionel Messi. The Catalans first gained their lead in the tenth minute with a goal from Samuel Eto’o; they gained their second in the 70th from Messi. It was Messi’s 38th goal this year.

The Catalans entered the championships having defeated Chelsea – Manchester’s 2008 championship rivals – along with Bayern Munich and Lyon; United had routed Arsenal, Porto, and Inter Milan, winning the Premier League, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the League Cup. Both teams had claimed their domestic leagues.

And more interestingly, both teams boasted world-class players – United’s world footballer of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s thrilling forward, Lionel Messi.

Manchester United, which had been considered one of the top football teams in the world, was looking to defend its title. The team had hoped to make history with two consecutive victories, the first time such a feat would have been accomplished since the institution of the modern league. The title would have been the team’s fourth overall.

Barcelona, however, not only had an equally impressive record, but brought a stronger game to Wednesday’s championship. The Spaniards had last claimed a European cup in 2006, but 2008-09 was a magical season for the Catalans. The team has garnered an impressive 153 league and cup goals this year, entering into the Champions League with the Spanish Cup and League already in hand. The win gave the team its third overall championship victory.

United had also played an incredible season, with an outstanding defense that should have posed a formidable obstacle to the Catalans. Park Ji-sung and Michael Carrick had been able to provide the athleticism and know-how that brought United a strong line of defense. In fact, prior to entering the championship, United had been able to limit the Premier League’s goals against them to just 24. The team used the same formation it used in the semifinals in the championship game, with Ryan Giggs replacing the suspended Darren Fletcher.

And yet, somehow, United’s defense stumbled. Sir Alex Ferguson pointed to “shoddy defending” in addition to Fletcher’s suspension as the causes. United hadn’t planned on allowing the early goal by Eto’o and the team was unable to recover.

“The first goal didn’t help,” Ferguson explained. “It gave them the opportunity to keep possession. We didn’t plan to lose a goal early and we didn’t deal with it well enough. That was the story. To lose a goal like that was a bad goal.”

United player Rio Ferdinand corroborates: “To play a team like Barcelona you need your A-game. We didn’t have it.”

“[W]e gave away two soft goals at crucial points in the game and didn’t put away the chances we had. In a Champions League final, if you do not play well, either as individuals or a collective unit, you do not deserve to win.”

Barcelona, on the other hand, played a superb game, easily outplaying their English rivals. After ten minutes of little success, the Catalans launched a first attack that gained them a goal and changed the dynamic of the game. The Spanish club was able to settle into its mesmerizing passing patterns, with Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez prowling for openings that Messi and Eto’o were able to seize upon. United offered little threat.

The victory was a triumph not only for Barcelona’s players, but for its new coach as well. This season was Pep Guardiola’s first as a head coach, and the European Cup made a grand finale in an already-incredible year.

“When I won as a player I was young and it was magnificent,” Guardiola said. “But now winning the treble at the first attempt is marvelous.”

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