The Olympiastadion at Berlin was packed to the rafters and an estimated 300 million more fans sat in front of screens to watch the culmination of a year long competition – the UEFA Champions League Final. The two sides – Barcelona and Juventus. Both sides have a glorious European track record and have won the domestic league and cup in their respective countries. The Champions League winner would also complete their treble for this season.
Juventus were clearly the underdogs at the start of the game and Max Allegri would have been aware of this. He chose to ask his team to attack Barcelona early and his team delivered. Right from the get go, Juventus pressed a high line and forced Mascherano into making desperate clearances. It was therefore against the run of play when Barcelona opened the scoring in just the 4th minute.
A swift exchange between Neymar and Iniesta at the edge of Juventus’ box culminated with a ball across the face of goal that Rakitic latched onto and buried into Buffon’s net even as the veteran goalkeeper tried to dive to get to the ball.
Having opened the scoring, Barcelona settled down with the ball and controlled the tempo of the game. There were a few exciting exchanges between the three frontmen of Barcelona but nothing came off them. Frustration was creeping in and Arturo Vidal was its first victim as he recklessly began fouling players on the ball. He received a yellow card shortly for his pains but it hardly did much to assuage his behaviour as he trod a very thin line and every time a player went down in his vicinity, the Juventus supporters were looking at referee Cuneyt Cakir hoping he was not pulling out the dreaded card. Barcelona did test Buffon a couple of times but the veteran keeper was up for these shots and made sure his team held their 1 goal deficit as they headed into the half time break.
The second half began in much the same manner and Buffon was forced into making saves early on to keep Juventus in contention. Ten minutes into the second half, Tevez unleashed a shot at goal but it was saved by ter Stegen. However, Morata was present in the right place at the right time and gratefully swept the rebound into Barcelona’s goal. Juventus’ joy over equalising was however short lived when Barcelona returned the favour in the 68th minute, Suarez scoring off a rebound off Buffon from a Messi shot on goal. 3 minutes later Neymar thought he had doubled Barcelona’s lead when he headed into Juventus’ goal but was adjudged as having handled the ball as the ball bounced off his arm inadvertently on its way into the goal. Juventus turned up the heat and there were many high intensity exchanges between the two sides as the Turin club looked to equalise against the Catalans. The wishes of many spectators especially Barcelona supporters were granted when Luis Enrique substituted Xavi on for Iniesta in the 78th minute, bringing on the experienced midfielder for one last time in Barcelona colours. In spite of Juventus’ best efforts, the score line stayed that way till late in injury time when Neymar put in the ball in the 97th minute to close the game out 3-1.
Juventus lost the game on the night but had nothing to be ashamed of. They played a good game and by most measures had already done well to enter the finals of the competition. The scoreline would suggest a domination of the Scudetto by the La Liga champions but in reality the game was much closer. Unlike other teams that were blown away by Barcelona’s firepower, Juventus seemed to have come to grips with it after the opening salvo and were actually on an even keel right till the end. Fortune favoured both the teams for the second half goals and eventually Barcelona’s superior quality did shine through but the Bianconeri gave them a fight and a half for it.