CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL: Messi guides Barcelona to glory
Barcelona have taken out the 2011 UEFA Champions League trophy with an inspired 3-1 triumph at Wembley Stadium tonight. Things started in favour of Manchester United in terms of possession which was weird for a Barcelona game but soon enough Pep Guardiola's men were on when Xavi Hernandez found Pedro Rodriguez and the winger slotted home in the 27th minute to give the 'visiting' side the lead.
Man Utd struck back around seven minutes later when Wayne Rooney curled one in but from then on it was all Catalonia as superstar Lionel Messi conjured some magic less than ten minutes into the second half with a neat finish from outside the area before David Villa got in on the act to hand the trophy to Barcelona with a perfect goal after Messi had driven forward.
It is the fourth European Champions League final that the Blaugrana have won, backing up their 2009 triumph against United in Rome, as the Manchester side had to settle for just the English Premier League victory this term.
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London Crowd: 87,695 Referee: Viktor Kassia (HUN) Yellow cards:MANU - Michael Carrick 61', Antonio Valencia 79' BAR - Dani Alves 60'
Manchester United were extremely bright in their start as the strived to keep the ball away from the dangerous feet of the Barcelona players before the Catalan club took up their customary role of holding onto the ball with consummate ease.
The first real chance of the contest came in the 16th minute when Xavi played an angled ball into the area for Pedro but he was unable to divert the cross on target as the Unite defence breathed a sigh of relief.
David Villa tested Edwin van der Sar with his 20th minute shot from outside the area before the Dutchman saved a fierce shot from the Spaniard a couple of minutes later.
GOAL But soon enough it was 1-0 when Xavi crafted a perfect pass for Pedro and the winger had so much time to pick his spot with an easy finish past a hapless van der Sar at the near post.
GOAL No more than six minutes later, United were back on level terms when Wayne Rooney took the ascendency on himself, moving toward goal with a deft little ball to Ryan Giggs who played it back for the enigmatic striker and he curled it around Victor Valdes to make it 1-1, much to the delight of the Mancunians who were in attendance.
Barcelona looked stunned by the equaliser but soon enough they were back in action with Andres Iniesta having a 39th minute sighter which van der Sar safely held before Villa strode into the Man Utd areas but his enticing cross could not be met by Lionel Messi who was not far off getting a golden touch on the stroke of half-time.
The early stages of the second half provided a few chances with van der Sar having to save a Gerard Pique shot in the 49th minute before Patrice Evra headed clear the follow up.
GOAL All of a sudden it was 2-1 to Barcelona when the great Messi found space outside the area with Iniesta finding him before the Argentine ace drove to the top of the 'D' and then fired home past van der Sar for his 53rd goal of the season.
Messi seemed to be up for it and forced a solid save out of van der Sar just after the hour-mark before the United gloveman had to use some acrobatics to save from Xavi's 66th minute attempt.
van der Sar managed to hold a strong shot from Iniesta moments later before his teammate put one hand on the Champions League trophy in the 69th minute.
GOAL Then there was a third for Barca when Messi drove down the right only to see his cross blocked but Sergio Busquets managed to find David Villa outside the area and the former Valencia man curled a beauty around the post and into the back of the net to essentially wrap up proceedings.
United continued to make a nuisance of themselves as they strived to get back into the contest but it was all to no avail as Barca held onto their two-goal advantage to sweep to a fourth European title and a second on the hallowed turf of Wembley.
Man Utd Edwin van der Sar (gk) - Fabio (Nani 66'), Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra - Antonio Valencia, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick (Scholes 77'), Park Ji-Sung - Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez
BarcelonaVictor Valdes (gk) - Dani Alves (Puyol 88'), Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Eric Abidal -Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Xavi - Pedro (Afellay 90+2'), Lionel Messi, David Villa (Keita 86')