May 29, 2011 2:16:42 am
Barcelona,inspired by the peerless Lionel Messi,delivered a soccer masterclass to overwhelm Manchester United 3-1 in the Champions League final and lift the European Cup for the fourth time on Saturday.
Messi was at his inspirational best all night at Wembley as the champions of Spain left the champions of England looking like desperate also-rans in the face of their relentless intricate passing and deadly movement.
United somehow reached halftime level at 1-1 after Wayne Rooney cancelled out Pedro’s opening goal but Barcelona continued their dominance after the break.
A superb Messi goal and a precise 18-metre curler by David Villa,underlined the Spanish side’s dominance over the team they also beat in the 2009 final.
After a short-lived United flurry at the start,Barca were soon in control as they probed constantly in and around the United box.
Although the English side kept them at bay with a series of last-ditch tackles they were eventually undone in the 27th minute when Xavi cleverly delayed a pass to open space for Pedro to calmly tuck the ball beyond Edwin van der Sar.
United looked almost out of their depth but showed why they have reached three finals in the last four seasons by conjuring a well-made equaliser after 34 minutes.
Rooney played a one-two with Michael Carrick then another with Ryan Giggs before sweeping the ball high into the net.
Messi was millimetres away from a second goal after another high-speed give and go with Villa but somehow United reached halftime on level terms.
The parity on the scoreboard was short-lived though as Barca immediately regained control and,after more near misses,duly went ahead in the 54th minute.
United’s defenders made the fatal error of standing off Messi on the edge of the box and the Argentine maestro took full advantage driving the ball in low for the 53rd and most important goal of his remarkable season.
It was Messi who set up the third too as he surged into the box and,though the ball was half-cleared,it went straight to Villa who killed it instantly before curling a superb 18-metre shot into the top corner.
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