ROME - Barcelona deposed Manchester United as European champions with a 2-0 victory forged by a superb display of controlled attacking soccer in the Champions League final on Wednesday. Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o struck the opener against the run of play after 10 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico when he cut past Nemanja Vidic with surprising ease and sent a low shot past United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar at his near post. Argentina's Lionel Messi added the second with a rare, and perfectly timed header after 70 minutes, sealing Barcelona's third European Cup win after their successes in 1992 and 2006. Victory also completed a European and domestic treble for Barca in an extraordinary first season for coach Pep Guardiola, who ended Alex Ferguson's dreams of making United the first side to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era. The match, hailed as a "dream final" between two of Europe's greatest clubs, could not live up to its expectations because United were so far below their best. They did have their chances, especially in the first 10 minutes, but they could not reproduce the power, authority and precise passing that had already brought them three trophies over the course of the season, including the Premier League title. United manager Alex Ferguson told ITV afterwards: "I think the first goal was a killer for us. We had plenty of time, we had some half-chances in the second half but in fairness we were beaten by a better team." MISSING PLAYERS Barcelona's victory was all the more notable as they were without suspended full-backs Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves as well as the injured Rafael Marquez. Andres Iniesta, despite not being fully fit, dominated the midfield battle alongside Xavi and helped prise United's grip from the trophy they won against Chelsea in Moscow last year. Xavi, voted Man of the Match, cracked a free kick against a post at the start of the second half and his link play with his team mates frustrated United once Barcelona had taken a grip on the game with the early goal from Eto'o. That Eto'o strike shocked United, who had started so brightly as they attempted to extend a record 25-match unbeaten run in the competition. Cristiano Ronaldo had three chances, the best being a second-minute free kick which Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes failed to hold. The ball bounced out of his grip but Park Ji-sung could not get to it in time and Barca's immense skipper Carles Puyol cleared for a corner. Ronaldo's influence faded as Messi's grew and it was the Barca man who came out top in the battle of the playmakers. He dazzled and jigged his way through United's ponderous defence and his sweet touches and intelligent movement were another key to Barcelona's victory. United's usual match winners, like Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, were also strangely peripheral and even Carlos Tevez, who replaced the ineffective Anderson at half-time, had little influence. Thierry Henry, Messi and Eto'o - whose combined scoring total for the season is an astonishing 96 goals - could all have added more as Barcelona finished the match in complete command. UNITED FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Wayne Rooney, Peter Schmeichel, Carlos Tevez Q&A Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistlerooy One on One David Beckham, George Best Ask A Silly Question Bryan Robson Boy's A Bit Special Danny Simpson Perfect XI Garth Crooks, Bryan Robson, Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona What Happened Next? David May, Norman Whiteside Sing When You’re Winning Dominic Monaghan, Ian Brown And Another Thing Being a Big Four fan Plus! Rate United players (and others) on Talentspotter BARCELONA FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews section for more stuff to read: Q&A Samuel Eto'o, Cesc Fabregas Web Exclusives Cesc Fabregas, Gary Lineker One on One Mark Hughes, Thierry Henry, Ronaldo Perfect XI Gheorghe Hagi, Hristo Stoichkov, Ronald Koeman Plus! Rate Barca players (and others) on Talentspotter
27 May 2009
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