Barcelona have become the only club in Europe to ever win the treble twice in the competition’s history as they defeat Italian champions Juventus in the 2014-15 Champions League final, writes Inside Spanish Football’s Tom Conn.
Spanish champions Barcelona took on Italian champions Juventus in a true Champions League final in Berlin’s Olympiastadion as both clubs kicked off in Germany in hopes of coming home with not only the distinguished Champions League trophy, but, having both claimed league titles and domestic cups already, the treble as well.
Juventus’ chance took a devastating hit just four minutes into the match when former Sevilla captain Ivan Rakitic took a brilliant pass from Andres Iniesta to score the opening goal against a Juventus side that pride themselves on defence.
Juventus then settled down and limited Barcelona’s chances on goal while forcing Marc Andre ter Stegen to make several saves.
The Bianconeri refused to give up and 10 minutes into the second half Alvaro Morata, the man who took Juve into this final match with decisive strikes against his former club Real Madrid, brought them to life again with a first-time finish off of a Marc Andre ter Stegen rebound.
Luis Suarez would turn things back in Barca’s favour in the 69th minute as Messi guided the attack and the former Liverpool star finished following a strong hand from Gigi Buffon to put his side in the driver’s seat once again, in what was a thrilling second half.
It was then time for Andres Iniesta to exit and allow Xavi to captain his final game for Barcelona, as the fans began cheering louder, albeit cautiously, as they crept closer to another Champions League win.
Juventus picked up the intensity, making swift changes while the Blaugrana were counting down the minutes.
A great chance by Tevez was blocked by ter Stegen to effectively end the match and reward Barcelona as the greatest club in Europe as Neymar added one last goal in the 96th minute on the full-time whistle.
Barcelona prove that several years on, there is life after Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique proves that he can handle the pressure.
In his post-match press conference via UEFA, Enrique began by analysing the win over the Italian champions and admitted that there were times where his side were forced to suffer after the opening goal by Rakitic and that they were able to set the tone later on and get this historic win.
“This final was spectacular, against absolutely top-level opponents. They gave us a lot of trouble and we suffered a lot, but we created chances. It was extraordinary because of what both teams contributed, and of course we’ve written history again for Barcelona.
“We started perfectly, scored with our first chance and had more openings. [Gianluigi] Buffon was at his best as usual, and in the second half Juventus came back into it and had us under pressure. For about ten minutes we were under the cosh but we came back and overall we were on top and deserved to win.”
Lucho then went on to praise Barcelona’s quality and consistency throughout the year, while also sharing kind words about Neymar and Luis Suarez.
“This is our 60th match, six defeats and four draws. Those figures show that this has been one of Barcelona’s best campaigns. In the last ten years, this has been the most successful club in Europe. These players have shown hunger for victories and they’ve shown they enjoy it so much – they enjoy making the supporters happy and that’s been key.
“Neymar had a very, very good season last year, his first in Barcelona and Europe, but this year he’s been spectacular. He’s grown immensely, in terms of his statistics and performances; he’s shown he’s one of the best players in world football.
“When we thought about getting Luis Suárez to reinforce the team, we knew of his great qualities, but of course we had our doubts – we didn’t know if he’d adapt to this team, to a different philosophy. His statistics and performances show that he’s one of our best signings. We paid a lot of money for him, but he’s shown a lot of hunger to win trophies.”
And Suarez was equally thrilled to be able to score in his first Champions League final, and admits that winning the coveted title is something he’s always dreamed of doing and is thrilled to be able to live this moment after being suspended for the first two months of the season.
Suarez has suffered his share of ups and downs this season, but all of his struggles were forgotten when the Uruguayan international scored the game-winning goal in Saturday evening’s Champions League final against Juventus in Berlin.
In his post-match interview with TVE, Suarez first spoke about winning the title with a team like Barcelona and fulfilling his childhood dream.
“When you come to a team like Barcelona, it’s the ultimate challenge. This is something I’ve always dreamed of.”
Suarez went on to describe the feelings he had when he scored off of Messi’s rebound and ran onto the Barcelona crest in celebration.
“You always want to do the best for your team, I took the rebound and gave my team peace of mind.”
Suarez concluded by dedicating the goal to his entire family, who have been by his side throughout his World Cup biting scandal and his subsequent four-month ban from football.
“I dedicate the goal to my wife and my children, my teammates, my family and the support of the fan, who have treated me spectacularly.”
It was a somewhat different mood for outgoing captain Xavi, who made his last appearance for the side he’s been with for 24 years.
“There are no words for this. It’s spectacular, amazing. I couldn’t ask for more. This team and these fans are amazing. Knowing you’re not going to play for this team anymore is rough. It was an incredible ending.”
Even when the spotlight was on him, Xavi deflected the attention an praised teammate Leo Messi, who fired the shot that rebounded off of Buffon to allow Luis Suarez to score the game-winner.
“Juve tightened up. The equaliser hurt but then Messi came up big again. I wanted to end it like this. This is unbeatable.”
Xavi then praised manager Luis Enrique and the entire coaching staff, as he feels they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the team’s success and are the only ones qualified to lead this team into the future.
“Luis Enrique deserves this. There was a lot of criticism about him in the beginning. He’s been a leader for this team. The entire coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. A great job. They deserve to stay here. They are the best possible choice for next year. I didn’t say anything. We haven’t spoken about this at all.”
And the victorious manager encouraged the team and the fans to celebrate what has been a difficult year and concluded that he was happy that things had turned around after their trophy-less 2013-14 season.
“There’ll be a great celebration tomorrow,” Enrique said. “It’s been a difficult year, a transitional year, but I want to thank all those people who trusted me, and all the people who supported me within the club and my family – I’m elated. My future? Those decisions will be made later. The season is not over yet. We have a long night ahead of us now and then tomorrow we have the parade. Have I made a decision about my future? The truth is, no.
“Last year we won nothing; we had injuries and new staff. After that difficult year, the team has come together and done the things right throughout the season. They’ve overcome difficulties and tough times together; together we’re stronger and that’s when individual quality comes out. I had no doubts about my work, the work of my players or of those who work with the first team at Barcelona – or the supporters.”
Barcelona will arrive back on Sunday morning and immediately hit the road and roll through the city for their celebratory parade.
Juventus 1-3 Barcelona
Referee: Cüneyt Cakir (Turkey)
Juventus XI: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Evra (89′); Pirlo, Marchisio, Pogba, Vidal (79′); Morata (85′), Tévez
Subs: Pereyra (79′), Llorente (85′), Coman (89′)
Goals: Morata (55′)
Yellow Cards: Vidal (11′), Pogba (42′)
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen, Alves, Alba, Piqué, Mascherano, Busquets, Rakitic (91′), Iniesta (78′), Messi, Suárez (95′), Neymar
Subs: Xavi (78′), Mathieu (91′), Pedro (95′)
Goals: Rakitic (4′), Suarez (69′), Neymar (96′)
Yellow Cards: Suarez (71′)
This content was originally published on Inside Spanish Football.