Messi Shines on a Night to Remember at Wembley

May 29, 2011

FC Barcelona has won the Champions League title after defeating Manchester United 3-1, in a game of near total dominance by the Blaugrana side. Lionel Messi and David Villa scored the winning goals, after Pedro’s opener was levelled by a Wayne Rooney strike on the half-hour mark.

After a slow first ten minutes, when Barça needed to find their feet after two and a half weeks of much-needed rest, Guardiola’s men exerted a stranglehold on the game that never loosened; always imaginative and assured in possession, and showing great togetherness and tactical nous to win the ball back early.

After a much-needed rest following the gruelling confrontations with Real Madrid, Barcelona were able to call on a near full-strength team for this, their most important match of the season. Abidal was fit to play at left-back, while Javier Mascherano filled in for Puyol, whose second half of the season has been plagued by niggling injury.

Manchester United started at a blistering tempo, pressing but without troubling the Barça defence. In fact, the first real opportunity fell to the Catalan side and proved to be the warning shot before a barrage of chances; Alves scuttled into space down the right for the first time, and found Pedro free in the area, but the Canarian winger skewed wide.

David Villa went close with an attempt from distance, then drew an important save at close range from Edwin van der Sar. Barcelona were suddenly looking confident, with Xavi, Messi and Iniesta interchanging with growing menace.

Some last-gasp defending by Vidic and Ferdinand only served to delay the inevitable – Pedro drifted into space on the counter-attack and was found by an inch-perfect Xavi pass, before finishing calmly at the near-post.

But the scores were level just minutes later, after Manchester United conjured their first real move of the match; Rooney combined with Giggs on the inside-right before lashing an unstoppable shot into the top left corner. Replays suggested that the veteran Welshman had strayed offside in the build up.

After this setback Guardiola will have been delighted by the way Barça went about their task at the start of the second period.

Yet more pressure culminated in a Messi goal, when the Argentine forward spotted the smallest of gaps between Vidic and Van der Sar from the edge of the area, driving the ball home.

This goal was followed by a spell of uninterrupted possession for the Blaugrana team, and Manchester United were visibly wilting, sapped by 70 minutes of chasing red and blue jerseys. It was David Villa who finally put them out of their misery, curling into the top corner from just outside the area after a Messi run.

All that was left was for Guardiola to lead his charges proudly up the Wembley steps, where Abidal was handed the captain’s armband and given the honour of lifting the Champions League, crowning a triumphant season with a memorable and touching gesture.

1-0 Pedro (min 27)
1-1 Rooney (min 34)
2-1 Messi (min 53)
3-1 Villa (min 69)

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