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Season of perfection
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 09 - 06 - 2015

Barcelona became the first team to twice win the European treble, matching Pep Guardiola's feat from the 2008/09 season when the Catalans captured the European, Spanish league and cup titles.
The Catalan giants were odds on favourites to beat the Italian side on Saturday and wasted no time in showing the world they meant business as they took the lead in the third minute.
Croatian master Ivan Rakitic was the scorer of a goal that saw all 10 Barca players involved in the build-up. Rakitic was left with the simple task after the magnificent Iniesta set him up brilliantly to open the scoring.
The remaining 42 minutes of the first half was all red and blue as the Spanish champions completely dominated the game.
The Spaniards could have scored two or three more goals only to see goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon pulling off two incredible saves in addition to seeing Luis Suarez's cheeky shot kiss the bar.
The second half started in the same way. Barca tried to find that second goal that would kill off the chances of the courageous Italian side. But that goal didn't arrive and Barca paid the price in the 55th minute when Alvaro Morata scored the equaliser against the run of play.
A brilliant back heel from Marchisio played in Liechsteiner who crossed to Carlos Tevez around the penalty spot and the Argentine striker's shot was saved by Ter Stegen only to see Morata in the right place at the right time to tap it in.
The following 10 minutes saw a rejuvenated Juventus side as they grew in confidence after the goal. The Italians came very close to taking the lead on two occasions and even had a chance for a penalty after Dani Alves appeared to pull down Paul Pogba.
However, the 68th minute witnessed another Barca goal as Lionel Messi took the ball from the middle of the field and ran before shooting low and hard, only to see his shot saved by the magnificent Buffon. Unfortunately for Juventus, Uruguayan superstar Suarez was there to tap in the rebound to break the hearts of Italian fans. The enthusiastic supporters knew it would be very hard to score another goal against this monstrous Barca side.
The remaining 20 minutes saw a few half chances for Juventus and many clear-cut chances for Barcelona until they finally sealed the win when Neymar was set up by Suarez's replacement Pedroto to score the third insurance goal in the 95th and last minute. As soon as the goal was scored the referee blew his whistle to send Barca's fans, players and staff crazy.
Neymar's goal saw him equal Messi and Ronaldo's number of goals scored in the Champions League this season as all three finished with 10 goals to see three players win the golden boot of the competition for the first time.
The result was hugely expected given the abundance of attacking talent the Spanish team possesses. But massive respect has got be given to Juventus who played a very good game and made sure there were no regrets in terms of the performance.
Egyptian fans were divided into two: the first consisted of Barca fans while the other were Real Madrid supporters, simply Barca haters and a handful of Juventus fans as the Italian club's fan base in the country is not big.
Barcelona fans were extremely confident their side would win it. Meantime, the most optimistic fan from the second set was just hoping for a miracle that will see the Italian side defend brilliantly and steal a goal to win the game.
This was the fifth time Barcelona have been crowned European champions and it is their fourth Champions League title in the last decade after their 2006, 2009 and 2011 triumphs.
For Suarez it was a triumphant end to a first season with the Spanish champions after his ignominious biting ban at the World Cup.
Amazingly, but still not so surprising, a 3-1 Baca win was the most predicted score-line on most of the betting websites which simply showed the confidence of the fans in the attacking powers of Barcelona whose trident force of Messi, Suarez and Neymar scored an incredible, and a record 122 goals this season.
Massive respect should be given to both teams, to coach Luis Enrique who guided Barcelona to a historical treble in his first season as the team's manager, to Massimo Allegri who made Juventus a European powerhouse once again after some tough seasons in the Champions League. But Juventus suffered the indignation of becoming the first team to lose six European Cup finals, 30 years after winning the trophy for the first time amidst the tragedy of the Heysel Stadium disaster.
And finally, kudos to the legendary Xavi who played his last ever game for Barcelona before moving to El Sadd El Qatari starting this coming season. The passer supreme was given the most memorable send-off and the one he highly deserves.


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