Man of the match Samuel Eto'o said that FC Barcelona drew on Liverpool FC's fightback in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final to overcome Arsenal FC.
Man of the match Samuel Eto'o said FC Barcelona drew inspiration from Liverpool FC's fightback in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final to battle back from a goal down and defeat Arsenal FC at the Stade de France.
The English side lost goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to an early red card for a foul on the Cameroonian striker, but nevertheless took the lead eight minutes before half-time when Sol Campbell rose to head in Thierry Henry's free-kick. Despite not being at their fluent best against opponents who stretched their run without conceding a goal in the competition to 994 minutes, Barça finally found a breakthrough with 14 minutes to go as Henrik Larsson's clever flick gave Eto'o the chance to poke past Lehmann's replacement Manuel Almunia and finally bring the record to an end.
The goal inspired the Spanish champions, who took the trophy to Catalonia for the second time with a decisive strike nine minutes from time, Juliano Belletti turning in Larsson's perfectly-weighted pass from an acute angle. "We never thought it was a lost cause," said Eto'o, who was voted man of the match by UEFA's technical observers. "We saw Liverpool recover last year from three goals down and we knew it was never over, we always thought we could win. You can have doubt in a final but at half-time we remembered the spirit of Liverpool and we knew we had to keep going and keep trying and trying."
Eto'o's coach Frank Rijkaard – only the fifth man to lift the European Champion Clubs' Cup as player and coach after his successes with AC Milan and AFC Ajax, following in the footsteps of Miguel Muñoz, Giovanni Trapattoni, Johan Cruyff and Carlo Ancelotti – is a keen advocate of the team ethic, and his No9 echoes that view. "It was Barcelona's evening, not mine, not Belletti's, not Ronaldinho's – it's a great night for the team rather than any one player," he said. "We have a great team here and anyone can score if they get a great pass from a colleague, as myself and Belletti did. Arsenal played in their own way and managed to score against us with ten players, but we kept going and thank heavens we got back into it and scored those goals."
A deeply religious and proud family man whose son was by his side throughout the man-of-the-match press conference, the 25-year-old forward struggled to express just what the result meant to him. "It's incredible, there are not enough words to explain this experience. It means that, in a few years, I'll be able to say to my son, 'Listen, we won the UEFA Champions League trophy at the Stade de France and I scored the equaliser'.
I think what we have achieved will only become evident when we stop playing." Barça fans will be hoping there are a few more nights like the one they have just lived before that day comes.