As Juventus and Barcelona entered Saturday’s Champions League Final, both stood with the opportunity to complete one of the most illusive challenges in club competition: the treble. Both clubs had already claimed their respective league titles and domestic cups going into the match in Berlin, and this was the first time since the 2010 final between Bayern Munich and eventual winners Inter Milan that both the finalists could clinch the treble with a victory. Despite the level comparison between silverware this summer, many fans and commentators fully expected this mighty Barcelona squad to go on a romp against their Italian opposition, but Juventus didn’t go down quite so easily.
The start of the match, however, couldn’t have gone worse for the Italians. Within four minutes, a typically flawless buildup play from Barca was capped of when Andres Iniesta found Ivan Rakitic, who won last year’s Europa League title with Sevilla, in the middle of the penalty area and the Croatian summer signing made no mistake in slotting his effort past Gigi Buffon: 1-0 to Barcelona. For the majority of the first half, it looked like this final could turn into a very one-sided affair. It took a miraculous save from Buffon in the 13th minute against Dani Alves to keep Juve’s deficit to just one goal. Chances were few and far between for Juventus’ Carlos Tevez and Álvaro Morata, leaving Marc-André ter Stegen with little to do in net for the Spanish champions.
As the two sides entered the dressing rooms after the first 45 minutes, there was a feeling that perhaps Barcelona were playing too relaxed for only having a one goal lead. A lack of a lethal finishing touch in the first half meant that Juve were still very much within striking distance. After a quiet half in terms of sparking any offense, the usually dominant midfield trio of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo looked poised to wake up and fight their way back into the match.
It took just ten minutes into the second period of play for the underdog Italian side to level things in Berlin. It was a seemingly typical Morata Champions League goal that got Juve on the board as the former-Real Madrid striker picked up the trash after ter Stegen’s initial save on a venomous Tevez strike from 12-yards out. The goal looked to be coming as Juve had began to claw their way back into the possession battle, and use their superior physical presence in the midfield and in attack. The stage was now set for a massive upset.
It just wasn’t to be for Juventus, however, as just 13 minutes later they got a taste of their own medicine. Another passage of brilliant counter attacking play found Lionel Messi at the top of the area, and despite Buffon denying the Argentine’s initial effort, another member of the infamous Barca attacking trio, Luis Suárez, made no mistake in slotting home the rebound and again putting his side in the driver’s seat with a 2-1 lead. Barca nearly entered dreamland just three minutes later in the 71st minute when Neymar thought he headed home the team’s third goal only for the assistant referee to call the whistle back for handball. On the replay, fans could see that the Brazilian striker had in fact headed the ball unintentionally against his hand before it crossed the line. Juve were still alive, and had less than 20 minutes to find another equalizer.
It was not to be for the Italians, though, as Barca continued to dominate the match, limiting their Italian opposition to just one real chance at goal from distance. As the game entered stoppage time, a free kick for the Seria A champions forced Buffon to come all the way out to the halfway line for attacking support, but another pacey counter attack left the legendary keeper scrambling back to his line and gave Neymar the opportunity to make up for his waved off effort with the final kick of the game. After the ball found the late substitute Pedro at the top of the area, the Spanish forward coolly played in an unmarked Neymar who made no mistake in scoring the dagger to put Barcelona up 3-1. When the final whistle blew, Barcelona had completed their second treble in just six years and reaffirmed their place as the best team in the world.