Champions League crown for Barcelona

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Champions League crown for Barcelona

Barcelona won European football's biggest prize for the fourth time on Saturday, beating Manchester United 3-1 in the final of the UEFA Champions League.

The Catalan club came to London's Wembley Stadium having also defeated the English side in the 2009 final, and took the lead through Pedro before Wayne Rooney made it 1-1 at halftime.
However, second-half strikes from world player of the year Lionel Messi and David Villa gave Pep Guardiola's team a double this season after also winning the Spanish league crown.

Barca clinched a third success against English clubs, having also beaten Arsenal in the 2006 final.
Fans await Champions League Final
The team's breakthrough title in 1992 -- the last time when the competition was known as the European Cup before changing format -- was also in London at the old Wembley before England's national stadium was rebuilt.
United manager Alex Ferguson had been hoping to become the first manager to win the Champions League three times, but will this season have to make do with just a domestic crown -- which was a record 19th English title.
"I expected us to do better but at the end of the day we were beaten by the better team," he told reporters.
"They are the best team we have ever played, they are at the peak in this cycle of their team.
We were beaten by the best team in Europe and there is no shame in that
--Alex Ferguson, United manager
"There was good evidence we are a consistently good European team, but we were beaten by the best team in Europe and there is no shame in that."
The 69-year-old Scot, Britain's most successful coach after 25 years at Old Trafford, must have been fearing the worst when Barcelona's early pressure paid off in the 27th minute.
Midfield maestro Xavi picked out Pedro on the edge of the United penalty area and the 23-year-old winger calmly sidefooted a shot past veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
But the lead proved short-lived as United pulled a trick out of their opponents' book seven minutes later, pressuring Barca into conceding possession in their own half.
England striker Rooney then played two slick return passes, the second with veteran Ryan Giggs giving him room to curl a right-foot shot past Victor Valdes.
Barcelona should have regained the lead just before the interval but Messi could not connect with Villa's inviting right-wing cross.
However, the Argentina superstar made amends in the 54th minute when he was given far too much time and space outside the United box, and lashed a wicked curling shot past Van der Sar for his 53rd goal this season.
That strike meant he matched the mark of Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who was on the losing side with United in 2009 -- when Messi also scored the second goal in Barca's 2-0 triumph.
He also equaled former United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of 12 goals in the post-1992 competition in one season.
The 40-year-old Van der Sar, playing his last game before retiring, did well to deny Messi with two quickfire saves but was helpless as Villa sealed victory with 21 minutes to play.
The Spain striker curled a right-foot effort from the edge of the area after United failed to clear, with Messi again involved in the build-up.