On This Day: Guardiola’s Barcelona won the Champions League while becoming the first Spanish side to complete a treble


Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona played against Manchester United to become the first Spanish side to complete a treble while the Red Devils were looking to complete a back to back Champions League triumph.

The setting is the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, world football leaders are clashing for European and historical supremacy. Guardiola is enjoying an unprecedented fruitful first season. The Catalan had achieved La Liga, the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League was up for grabs.

It was also the rise of revolutionary Tiki Taka that would change the future of football in the years to come. Players that would make a big difference were present as well; Lionel Messi at Barcelona while Cristiano Ronaldo was one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, the Portuguese had just won player of the year in 2008.

The Spanish side had effective assets in all areas of the pitch, most remarkably in Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Samuel Eto’o, Arsenal legend and invincible Thierry Henry and Messi as mentioned. Protected by former Manchester United man Gerard Pique and veteran captain Carles Puyol.

On the other side was Ferguson who had yet to lose a final and has led his side to two Champions League titles beforehand (1999 and 2008). At his disposal were men in the midst of their prime, strikers Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, a defense made of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and John O’Shea, all led by veteran and club legend Ryan Giggs.

Barcelona makes way for the genesis of the high stakes and dramatic evening. United in white for the night draws the first threat as Anderson is fouled by Yaya Toure a few yards outside the box, just at Ronaldo’s trademark distance. The Portuguese takes his chances by sending a curling ball towards Victor Valdes, the keeper managed to keep his sheets clean after two minutes of the final.

The danger isn’t unilateral during the first minutes, Ronaldo took a few ambitious shots but nothing on target. Chances that will be punished during the few minutes would follow.

Actually, it was a matter of seconds, Iniesta advanced from midfield towards the right side of the box, drawing left-back Evra, the Frenchman’s space would be exploited by Eto’o who received the ball in the box with Vidic and keeper Edwin Van Der Sar separating him from causing eruption in the Italian capital. Despite the big names keeping him from making it a big night, the Cameroonian faked a shot sending Vidic the wrong side and before Michael Carrick could recover danger, Barcelona’s number nine had used the outside of his boot to open the scoring at the 10th minute.

Expectations of the game was that it would be a balanced contest, an early goal had just put a change to the narrative.

One minute later, the Catalan side was awarded a corner, one that is directed towards an empty Messi, the world held its breath for a second as the ball went under the Argentinian’s effective left feet. A glance of hope Ferguson was happy to hold on to.

Ronaldo was contained at the edge of the box during the rest of the half forced him to take long and imprecise attempts at the goal and the same applied for his company.

Meanwhile, Barca tried to capitalize on chances to achieve a more secure lead, the first half however ended with the Blaugrana 1-0 up.

In the 49th minute, Henry received the ball at the left side of the box, the Frenchman dribbled past Ferdinand which caused him to fall, leaving him with Van Der Sar face to face. Henry employed his classic left to right sway only for the United keeper to save his side from conceding again.

The British team receivied lifelines that they wouldn’t use, Messi fell a yard outside the box and a free-kick was given. Xavi took it and was so close yet so far as he hit the right post for the scoreline to remain unchanged.

20 minutes were left, Xavi had the ball around 40 yards from the goal. The midfielder had missed the 2006 final due to injury and was determined to make the difference this time out. He somehow picked out a 5 ft 7 Messi behind one the world’s best defenders with a perfectly curled cross. The Argentinian managed to jump and head the ball to the Dutch keeper’s left as he watched it kiss the net glued to his place.

Despite his header which created euphoria, Leo took his boot and kissed it in celebration before falling on his knees and embracing Henry and the atmosphere was filled with the confirmation that the night was Barcelona’s.

In the 73rd minute, in an attempt to save the night, after multiple deflections, Ronaldo found the ball at his feet, took a shot but Valdes was quick to close in on the Portuguese and made sure his sheets were going to stay clean throughout the contest.

The game and the despair finally ends for Ferguson and his men as the man who was just starting his managerial career had dethroned him from the European seat.

Guardiola the unlikely candidate to become the manager of FC Barcelona had just written his name in history and defied all odds. After his first campaign as a head coach for a first-team, he accomplished what the most experienced managers have hardly gotten close to.


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