Regardless of UEFA’s Europe-only tag, the eyes of the entire world were glued to the final game between FC Barcelona and Juventus at Berlin. A massive global TV and social media audience of 180 million in more than 200 countries tuned in to see Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 and this confirmed the UEFA Champions League final as the world’s most watched annual sporting event. In a thrilling contest lasting 97 minutes, including 7 minutes of injury time, Barca reigned supreme and won their fifth UEFA crown. Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and Neymar scored for Barcelona while ex-Real Madrid star Alvaro Morata provided the equalizer for Juventus before Barca seized the initiative in the second half. The Italian Club didn’t play badly at all and could have taken the lead in the opening minute if Carlos Tavez’s powerful strike had not gone over the crossbar. In the end, however, the Spanish club prevailed in an engrossing contest with Neymar completing the 3-1 victory in injury time.
The fast-paced final began with both sides trying to score early. In the very first minute, it was Juventus, who came tantalizingly close to scoring when a clearance by FCB’s Javier Mascherano was nicely picked up by Juventus’ Arturo Vidal, who was quick to send the ball to Carlos Tevez. But despite the sting in the shot, Tevez couldn’t control and the ball flew over the crossbar. Barca went ahead in the fourth minute in a typical FCB move. Lionel Messi found Jordi Alba, who picked up his cross-field pass. But a Juventus defender dispossessed Alba only to see the ball rolling close to Neymar. The Brazilian turned around smartly and managed to find Andres Iniesta, who caressed the ball to Ivan Rakitic and the Croat’s first time shot found the first goal for Barcelona. It could have been 2-0 for Barca in the 13th minute but a fantastic effort by Juventus goalkeeper prevented the second goal. Messi had sent a pass to Suarez, who rolled it for Dani Alves and as Alves shot hard and almost wrong-footed Gianluigi Buffon, the Juventus custodian’s reflexive reaction helped him parry the shot away with his left hand in denying Alves. Buffon’s herculean effort drew gasps from the crowd and a round of applause continued for a while. Barcelona also made some enterprising moves and pressurized the Juventus defense. With a minute left for halftime, they could have extended their lead but Suarez’s shot just flicked the outside of Buffon’s post. The first half, however ended at 1-0 in FCB’s favor.
In the fourth minute of the second half, Buffon rescued Juventus once again. In a lightening move from Barcelona, Rakitic sent a ball to Suarez, who fired into the goal but Buffon stood tall and blocked the shot at near post. Two more chances were wasted as Suarez and Messi sent their shots over the bar. Juventus’ hard work in the field paid off in the 55th minute, when Claudio Marchisio played a smart back-heeled flick to Stephan Lichtsteiner, who spent no time in sending a cross to Carlos Tevez. The Argentine found Gerard Pique, whose stinging volley was blocked by the FCB goalkeeper but the ball fell in Alvaro Morata’s path, who made no mistake in finding the equalizer to make it 1-1.
The equalizer brought new life in the game and both teams went for broke in trying to secure the vital lead. While Juventus tried to ride on the new-found momentum, it was Barcelona, who forged ahead in the 68th minute. Messi picked up the ball and found his space before unleashing a goal-bound shot. Buffon parried it away but Suarez seized the moment and found the goal. Shortly afterwards, there was a fantastic effort by Neymar as well but his shot couldn’t find its mark. For the next 10 minutes, the play remained confined in Barcelona’s half and as regulation time of 90 minutes passed, 7 minutes were added as injury time. Juventus mounted the attack even as the final whistle was about to be blown but in a counter-attack, brought the ball in Juventus’ goal area. FCB substitute Pedro Rodriguez passed the ball for Neymar, who completed the unerring 3-1 finish and Barcelona began their celebrations.
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