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2009 UEFA Champions League Final

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200px-Cl2009 logo

The logo of the UEFA Champions League Final 2008/09


The 2009 UEFA Champions League Final was the final match of the 2008–09 UEFA Champions League , the 54th season of the UEFA Champions League football tournament and the 17th in the Champions League era. The match was played on 27 May 2009 at Rome's wiki/ Stadio Olimpico for the fourth time, following the 1977, 1984 and 1996 finals.

The match was contested by Barcelona and holders Manchester United, who were the first defending champions to reach the final since Juventus in 1997, and who unsuccessfully sought to be the first team to retain the European Cup since Milan in 1990. It was the fifth year in a row in which the final involved at least one English team.

Barcelona opened the scoring early through Samuel Eto'o in the 10th minute, and Lionel Messi added another goal 20 minutes from the end to give Barcelona a 2–0 victory and an historic treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League. This was Barcelona's third victory in the competition, 17 years after they first won the European Cup in 1992.

Match SummaryEdit

Barcelona kicked the match off, but Manchester United showed their intent from the outset, forcing goalkeeper Víctor Valdés to concede a throw-in after just 10 seconds. Further pressure on the attack resulted in Yaya Touré fouling Anderson within Cristiano Ronaldo's shooting range. Ronaldo fired the free kick directly at Víctor Valdés, but the Spanish goalkeeper could only parry the ball and Gerard Piqué did well to divert Park Ji-Sung's follow-up effort over the bar. The resulting corner was cleared, but only as far as Wayne Rooney, whose snap-shot was wayward and went out for a goal kick.

Both teams struggled to put a flowing move together in the opening exchanges, but it was United who had the better chances, both falling to Cristiano Ronaldo. The first came in the seventh minute: having been played the ball by Michael Carrick, Ronaldo turned away from Gerard Piqué on the edge of the centre circle, before hitting a shot just wide from almost 40 yards; the second saw the ball break to Ronaldo after Anderson and Patrice Evra had linked up well down the left flank. The Portuguese winger controlled the ball on the chest before hitting the ball just past the far post.

However, despite United's early pressure, it was Barcelona who scored the first goal of the match. Edwin van der Sar cleared the ball downfield for Manchester United, but it was headed away by Barcelona anchor Sergi Busquets. Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick was first to the ball, but he could only head it as far as Xavi, who passed to Andrés Iniesta. The Manchester United defence backed away from the Spaniard, who – after exchanging passes with Lionel Messi – played the ball into the path of Samuel Eto'o in the Manchester United penalty area. Nemanja Vidić attempted to shepherd the Cameroonian striker towards the goal line, but Eto'o easily stepped inside him and toe-poked the ball past Van der Sar to make it 1–0 to Barcelona inside 10 minutes.[82]

The goal seemed to rock Manchester United, who had been on top in terms of shots and possession up to that point, and – almost immediately from the restart – Nemanja Vidić gave away an unnecessary corner. In a pre-rehearsed corner move, Xavi played the ball back to the edge of the penalty area towards Lionel Messi, but the tournament's top scorer was unable to make a proper connection. Nevertheless, Barça retained possession through some sharp inter-passing between Xavi and Iniesta. When United did managed to regain the ball, however, it was quickly given away by an uncharacteristically poor pass from Michael Carrick, while Anderson found himself kicking at fresh air. It was now Barcelona's turn to pressurise the United players, forcing them into backwards passes or long, hopeful balls forward.

The quality of the teams' passing remained the main difference between them; however, in the 16th minute, Barcelona lost the ball in a 50-50 challenge and Ryan Giggs sent a long ball forward to Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo's first touch took him inside Gerard Piqué before going back outside the former Manchester United defender, who cynically blocked Ronaldo's run, earning himself the first yellow card of the match. Ronaldo shaped to take the free kick himself, but it was Giggs who shot for goal, only to curl the ball just over the bar.

Barcelona responded almost immediately, Carles Puyol finding Samuel Eto'o with a long throw-in down the right wing. The Cameroonian then found Messi, who cut inside and hit a curling 25-yard shot that just shaved the top of the crossbar. A quick-passing move from United followed, culminating with a through-ball to Park in the inside right channel, only for Víctor Valdés to cut out the pass, taking out the South Korean in the process. The resulting throw-in eventually broke to Ronaldo, whose 30-yard shot went just wide. Valdés' clash with Park, however, left him requiring treatment, and although the injury was not sufficient to necessitate a substitution, Valdés chose to leave his next few goal kicks to Piqué.

In the 22nd minute, a lofted through-pass from Michael Carrick found Wayne Rooney on the left wing, but the Liverpudlian's cross was blocked by Yaya Touré and went out for a corner kick. The corner, taken by Ryan Giggs, found Ronaldo, but the Portuguese got too far under the ball and headed over. Intricate passing from the Barcelona midfield got the Catalans moving upfield until a shoulder charge from Anderson sent Iniesta stumbling to the ground in the inside left channel 30 yards from goal. The consequent free kick was taken by Xavi, who sent the ball just wide of the near post. Another free kick followed, as Messi was bundled over by a double-challenge from Vidić and Carrick, but it came to nothing. Xavi prepares to take the consequent free kick.

With ten minutes left until half-time, the Manchester United defence effectively switched off and allowed Yaya Touré to dribble unopposed to within 15 yards of their penalty area before slipping the ball out wide to Puyol, whose low cross was diverted behind by Vidić. The corner kick was taken short and the eventual cross was headed behind for another corner on the opposite side by Patrice Evra. The second corner was crossed in towards Piqué, but he was unable to make contact with the ball.

With half-time fast approaching, Barcelona's confidence began to show: first, Messi attempted to flick a pass over the top of the United defence to Thierry Henry, which Rio Ferdinand intercepted; Iniesta then tried a cheeky back-heel which Van der Sar collected; and finally Messi sped through three Manchester United defenders towards the by-line, only for his cut-back cross to be pounced upon by Van der Sar and then cleared by Vidić. On the stroke of half-time, Iniesta himself then attempted to flick the ball through to Henry, but it was just too high for the French striker, and referee Massimo Busacca took that cue to blow the whistle for the interval.

Second halfEdit

After bringing on Carlos Tévez in place of Anderson at half time, Manchester United kicked off the second half in a different formation, with Tévez joining Ronaldo up front in a familiar 4-4-2. Both teams attempted to settle into their customary passing rhythms, but – unlike the first half – it was Barcelona who settled first; Manchester United's passes in their attacking third of the field failed to find their targets, and Iniesta came away with the ball before flicking a pass through to Xavi, who played a through-ball to Thierry Henry on the left wing. The French forward turned Rio Ferdinand inside-out, but his shot from a narrow angle was straight at Van der Sar and ended up going out for a throw-in. Xavi then again passed the ball out to the left flank, where Henry nonchalantly left it for the on-rushing Sylvinho; the Brazilian full-back whipped in a cross for Samuel Eto'o, but it was caught on the edge of the six-yard box by Van der Sar.

Pressure high up the pitch from Barcelona kept Manchester United in their own half, forcing them into attempting long balls downfield. A scrappy few moments in and around the centre circle followed, but Manchester United eventually came away with the ball. However, a lapse in communication between Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra on the left wing allowed Samuel Eto'o to steal in and advance on the Manchester United goal. He cut in from the right wing and played a through-ball just out of reach of Lionel Messi, who went to ground after O'Shea had put his hand on Messi's shoulder. A period of sustained pressure from Barcelona followed, culminating with a run from Iniesta, who could only be stopped by a foul from Tévez on the edge of the Manchester United penalty area. The consequent free kick was taken by Xavi, who curled the ball around the defensive wall and onto the post with Van der Sar beaten.

United responded with their first extended period of possession of the half, working the ball into wide areas to be crossed into the middle, but Wayne Rooney's first couple of attempted centres were well cleared by Piqué. At the third attempt, though, Rooney's cross evaded the Barcelona defence as Yaya Touré kicked at thin air; however, it also failed to find a Manchester United player in the penalty area, both Ronaldo and Park going close. After Ronaldo was called offside in the 59th minute – despite appearing to be level with the last defender – Ryan Giggs stole the ball mid-way inside the Barcelona half before playing the ball to Ronaldo on the left wing. The Portuguese forward stepped over the ball several times in an attempt to wrong-foot Carles Puyol, before cutting inside and playing the ball across the edge of the area towards Michael Carrick. A sliding challenge from Busquets prevented a shot, only for the English midfielder to slide the ball out for a Barcelona goal kick while attempting to play Wayne Rooney through. Rooney was again played down the right wing a few moments later, but his low cross was diverted behind by Piqué, and the resulting corner came to nothing. A left-wing attack from Ronaldo followed, but after cutting inside, he gave the ball away cheaply. Barcelona immediately went on the attack down the other end, but Henry was unable to get past O'Shea and his shot was well saved by Van der Sar low at the near post.

In the 66th minute, Alex Ferguson completed his attacking quartet by bringing Dimitar Berbatov on in place of Park Ji-Sung.[82] Ronaldo was penalised for a high elbow when challenging for a header with Puyol a minute later before Rooney forced another corner off Piqué in the 69th minute. However, United's numbers up front in search of another goal left them wanting in defence; a weak clearance from Van der Sar was cut out by Puyol who played the ball to Samuel Eto'o on the right side of the penalty area. The ball broke to Xavi on the edge of the area, who crossed for Messi to send a looping header over the United goalkeeper and into the far side of the goal for a two-goal lead. Immediately after the goal, Thierry Henry was replaced by Seydou Keita, allowing Barcelona to adopt a more defensive stance.[82]

United responded to the goal immediately, as Giggs made a surging run through the Barcelona defence before playing the ball to Berbatov in the inside-right channel. The Bulgarian forward's low cross found Giggs in the centre, and the United captain's shot was deflected to Ronaldo on the far side of the goal, only for the Portuguese's shot to be blocked by Víctor Valdés. The resulting corner reached Berbatov on the far side of the goal, but it was deemed to have crossed the goal line first and Barcelona were awarded a goal kick, from which they launched another attack. Messi played a through-ball to Puyol on the right flank, but as the Barcelona captain reached the goal line, he was fouled by Ronaldo, who – despite going in two-footed – escaped the referee's book. Puyol himself rose to head Xavi's free kick towards goal, but it was directly at Van der Sar, who claimed the ball easily.

Manchester United used their third and final substitute in the 75th minute, replacing Ryan Giggs with Paul Scholes, who took over as team captain. Ronaldo and Scholes each received yellow cards in the 78th and 80th minutes, respectively; Ronaldo's yellow card was awarded for a robust shoulder-charge on Puyol as the Barcelona right back shepherded the ball out for a goal kick, while Scholes was booked for a late challenge on Busquets. While the referee played advantage after Scholes' foul, Iniesta cut inside from the left wing and hit a shot that was saved above the head of Van der Sar. An extended spell of Barcelona possession followed, as they strung a series of around 20 passes together, culminating with Puyol attempting to clip the ball over the onrushing Van der Sar, who blocked the shot. Both players went for the follow-up, but the Dutch goalkeeper was first to the ball and sent Puyol sprawling.[82]

In the 85th minute, Paul Scholes clipped the ball over the top of the Barcelona defensive line to Wayne Rooney, who chested the ball down for Carlos Tévez, only to be given offside. Scholes then found Rooney again on the left wing with a raking ball from deep inside his own half, but Rooney's first touch was heavy, allowing Carles Puyol to get back and put the ball out for a corner. Rooney took the corner short to Tévez, whose cross was just beyond the reach of Berbatov and diverted behind again by Puyol. Rooney also took the second corner, which was met by Berbatov, but he put the ball high over the crossbar.

As the match entered its closing stages, the referee allotted a minimum of three minutes of injury time. The first of these saw Edwin van der Sar make a poor pass after the ball was played back to him by Rio Ferdinand, allowing Iniesta to steal in and play the ball towards Messi in the United penalty area, only for Vidić to get there ahead of the Argentine and knock the ball out for a corner. Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola brought Pedro Rodríguez on for Andrés Iniesta in the second minute of added time, before Vidić was immediately shown a yellow card for a clash of heads with Messi when going for a header. That was to be the final act of the match, as referee Massimo Busacca blew for full time as soon as Xavi took the free kick.

Trophy PresentationEdit

At the final whistle, a stark difference in the two teams' reactions was apparent; while Manchester United's players stood individually in quiet contemplation, the Barcelona team celebrated their win together. Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola offered his commiserations to each of Manchester United's players, while former Manchester United defender Gerard Piqué fraternised with his erstwhile team-mates. Both teams then retreated to either end of the stadium to applaud their fans.

While match referee Massimo Busacca and his assistants collected their mementoes of the final, the Barcelona team formed a guard of honour for the Manchester United players, just as the English side had done for their opponents – Chelsea – in 2008. Led by their manager, Alex Ferguson, and team captain, Ryan Giggs, the Manchester United team then ascended the specially constructed rostrum to collect their runners-up medals from UEFA president Michel Platini and secretary David Taylor. Other dignitaries present included Manchester United chief executive David Gill; The Football Association's president Prince William of Wales, and chairman Lord Triesman; Barcelona president Joan Laporta; Juan Carlos I of Spain; Royal Spanish Football Federation president Ángel María Villar; and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Ferguson also collected a commemorative plaque from Platini, but immediately handed it to Giggs.

After offering his commiserations to Manchester United's players, Joan Laporta then joined the Barcelona team to lead them up the podium, closely followed by manager Guardiola. Laporta himself collected Barcelona's commemorative plaque before accepting a medal from Platini. Once the entire Barcelona team had collected their medals, Platini made his way to the front of the podium to present Carles Puyol with the European Champion Clubs' Cup, which the Barcelona captain promptly held aloft with accompaniment from the UEFA Champions League Anthem and explosions of golden confetti, before leading his team on a lap of honour.

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