Saturday, in Berlin, Germany, Spanish Football’s Copa del Rey and La Liga champions, FC Barcelona, defeated Italian Football’s Italian Cup and Serie A winners, Juventus, 3-1 in the Champions League 2015 final. Barcelona’s goals came curtesy of Ivan Rakitic (4’), Luis Suarez (68’) and Neymar (97’) while Alvaro Morata (55’) discounted for Juventus.
The match was an even affair despite the 67% to 33% possession differential to Barca. In fact it was probably the most evenly played Champions League final in recent memory. Juventus played an inspired game, led by Gianluigi Buffon, who kept the Italians in the game time and again with spectacular saves. On one occasion diving to his right only to stick his left arm out to just make contact with the ball which Dani Alves’s shot had sent straight at goal from inside the box and in the opposite direction—to Buffon’s left.
The teams made no bones about their strategies with the vaunted Spanish team’s offensive trident going all out on offense, backed-up by Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic, with only Sergio Busquets as the lone midfielder charged with containing the Italians. Juventus put Chilean Arturo Vidal as the main midfield wrecking ball and he made contact with every creative player on the Spanish team before getting his yellow.
On the right side of defense, facing Neymar, was Swiss defender, Stefan Lichtsteiner, who managed to knock the Brazilian silly while also fouling anyone else coming down his wing, without once being called for a yellow. Similarly, as if making up for the missing Giorgio Chiellini, central defender, Leonardo Bonucci, nearly knocked Suarez out of the game on five different occassions before earning his one yellow. Suarez, not known for taking things lightly, managed to get in a strong foul in retaliation but the ref had finally caught on to that dynamic and he gave the Barca player a quick yellow to cool tempers down.
Notwithstanding the tactics the top players in the world put on a show and made this a final to enjoy. Lionel Messi was not allowed much roaming room and yet managed to dazzle nearly at will while Neymar, Suarez, Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tevez all took their turns on pretty plays. In the end it was the better team, with the outsized stars, who prevailed.
Xavi Hernandez, reportedly playing his last game with Barcelona, was led to the podium by UEFA President, Michel Platini, where the Frenchman handed the departing legend the trophy to hold aloft and then share with his teammates. The midfield maestro leaves his beloved Cules having led them to eight La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies, four Champions League titles, and two each for FIFA Club World Cups and UEFA Super Cups. He is also the record holder with 151 Champions League appearances.
Alves and Adriano indulged in a head to head shout-out and Neymar and Suarez seemed to be leading the partying on the pitch. Said Suarez, “It’s incredible, something unique. We have gone from game to game and achieved all of our objectives.” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, roaming the pitch consoling his troops, said: “I am proud of this team and what they have accomplished and how they have fought all year long.”