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Barcelona confirmed their place in the pantheon of football’s greatest sides after outclassing Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley on Saturday to claim their second Champions League crown in three years.

Goals from Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa secured a deserved victory for the Catalan magicians after England international Wayne Rooney had raised United’s hopes with a well-taken first-half equaliser.

The star of an electrifying team performance was Argentinian striker Messi, the 23-year-old maestro whose brilliant effort on 54 minutes saw him equal Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of 12 goals in a single Champions League campaign.

It also took Messi’s tally for the season to an astonishing 56 goals in 62 games for club and country, and propelled Barcelona towards their fourth victory in club football’s most prestigious competition.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s United had been determined to avoid a repeat of the 2009 final in Rome, where Pep Guardiola’s side had struck early before going on to clinch a 2-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico.

Yet despite a bright opening United were ultimately handed a defeat that was just as emphatic as their loss two years ago, with the Spanish champions revelling in the wide open spaces of Wembley.

United, lining up in an aggressive 4-4-2 formation, had harried Barcelona relentlessly in the early exchanges as they sought to prevent the Catalans from settling into their flowing passing rhythm.

But it was not long before Barcelona found their feet and United were to spend much of the opening half an hour, and the match, firmly on the back foot.

Villa shot wide after being picked out by Messi on the edge of the area and moments later Pedro went close after Xavi and Gerard Pique combined menacingly.

A jinking run by Messi set alarm bells jangling in the Manchester United defence before the striker threaded a lovely pass to Pedro only for United skipper Nemanja Vidic to slide in with an important block.

United had Vidic to thank for another superb piece of defending shortly afterwards, the Serbian judging his tackle brilliantly to deny Messi.

But on 27 minutes, Barcelona’s relentless pressure finally reaped its reward. An exquisite pass from Xavi struck with the outside of the boot picked out Pedro and the winger coolly clipped his shot beyond van der Sar.

At that point Ferguson must have been fearing a repeat Rome.

But crucially, United were able to find an equaliser within seven minutes.

Rooney combined passes with Michael Carrick out wide on the right before racing towards goal. Another one-two with Ryan Giggs, looking perilously close to off-side, and Rooney was in space.

The England international took his time and swept in a curling shot beyond Victor Valdes to round off a wonderful move.

The goal clearly rattled Barcelona, but the Catalans were soon threatening again. Messi went on a surging run and picked out Villa but then just failed to control his team-mate’s return pass and United breathed again.

United started the second half positively but again Barcelona were swiftly on top as the warning lights were flashing again.

A fine save from van der Sar denied Dani Alves after the Brazilian was played in by Andres Iniesta before Vidic headed away Messi’s follow up shot.

But on 54 minutes Barcelona were back in front.

Messi gathered the ball 25 yards out, and with Patrice Evra standing off fatally, the Barca talisman buried a thunderous low shot beyond van der Sar.

With Barcelona firmly on top it was left to Villa to apply the coup de grace on 69 minutes.

Messi embarrassed Nani before racing down the right flank. When Nani then failed to clear again, Messi found Sergio Busquets, who passed for Villa to curl into the top corner.

As the seconds wound down, Guardiola could even give a run out to captain Carles Puyol, surprisingly left on the substitutes bench amid concerns over his fitnesss.

© AAP 2018
The Socceroos' hopes of qualifying from the group stage at the World Cup are hanging by a thread after a 1-1 draw against Denmark. See how the match unfolded with our Australia vs Denmark match report, highlights and result.

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The Crowd Says (14)

  • May 29th 2011 @ 7:52am
    punter said | May 29th 2011 @ 7:52am | ! Report

    Sometimes in sport, you see something that is out of this world & you just go ‘WOW’, you may not have any association with the club or sportman, but you just sit & admire in total awe. You feel lucky that you are living & witnessing something that is true greatness.
    This Barcelona side is certainly at the greatness stage & it’s just a matter of how great, only time will tell.The great thing is they are winning in style & showing the rest of the world that the Beautiful game at it’s best is truly BEAUTIFUL.

    Viva Barcelona, viva Messi, Inesita & Xavi.

  • May 29th 2011 @ 8:15am
    Qantas supports Australian Football said | May 29th 2011 @ 8:15am | ! Report

    Well all that can be said is Craig Foster was right… FC Barcelona is the bench mark for club football.. What a team!!!! History will tell us in time that this 2011 team is the best football team and club of its era of any code ever..

  • May 29th 2011 @ 9:53am
    betamax said | May 29th 2011 @ 9:53am | ! Report

    Barca were sublime. The ball rarely left the turf. Say what you want about ticky tacky football, but when its done with the finesse of Xavi, Pique and Messi it’s a joy to behold. I’m going to have to watch the replay of the build up for the Villa goal again in slo-mo to work out exactly what Messi did with the ball to skin the ManU player on the right side. It was too quick for the human eye. Awesome.

  • Roar Guru

    May 29th 2011 @ 10:50am
    Fussball ist unser leben said | May 29th 2011 @ 10:50am | ! Report

    Yup. Notwithstanding the extreme sense of disappointment – even now, 4 hours after the final whistle – I have to agree … Barca were outstanding.

    Sometimes, when you watch your team lose a final there is a sense of “if only” … well, not today. The only way Man United would have won this morning … “if only” Barca hadn’t turned up to the game.

    The EPL’s best side was simply no match for La Liga’s best side … technique won and, as a football lover, I guess that’s a win – albeit a minor win – for me, too!

  • May 29th 2011 @ 11:04am
    dasilva said | May 29th 2011 @ 11:04am | ! Report

    Agree this is one of the greatest team in history and it’s a privilege watching Barcalona play.

    It also good to see that the Final was played in the right spirit as that Real Madrid encounter did seriously damage Barcalona reputation in terms of fair play.

  • May 29th 2011 @ 11:18am
    pike64 said | May 29th 2011 @ 11:18am | ! Report

    as a man u supporter, all i can say is that barca were awesome.

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