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2008/09 FC Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United FC: Report

"At times Barcelona can make you look silly because they keep the ball so well." Ryan Giggs

2008/09 FC Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United FC: Report
2008/09 FC Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United FC: Report ©UEFA.com

FC Barcelona became the first Spanish club to complete the treble, overcoming holders Manchester United FC to win their third European Champion Clubs' Cup.

Despite Barcelona's sterling domestic form, United were favourites to defend the trophy they had lifted 12 months earlier after edging out Chelsea FC on penalties. Like that rain swept night in Moscow, it was another wet evening in Rome but the conditions would not prove auspicious for Sir Alex Ferguson's side. They were outclassed, beaten by goals from Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi and a standout display by Xavi Hernández.

It initially looked promising for the English side, who were unlucky not to go ahead when Víctor Valdés spilled Ronaldo's bouncing free-kick which Gerard Piqué, against his former side, bravely cleared with Anderson lurking. By the ten-minute mark Barça had barely escaped their own half; as soon as they did they scored. Eto'o latched onto an Andrés Iniesta pass before cutting inside Nemanja Vidić and beating Edwin van der Sar at his near post.

United's chief threat appeared to come from either set pieces, one Ryan Giggs free-kick curled over, and Cristiano Ronaldo long shots, although the more desperately the 24-year-old tried to turn things round the more desperate his attempts became. At the other end Messi came much closer when his dipping left-footer from 25 metres skimmed the bar.

Barcelona were missing defenders Daniel Alves and Éric Abidal through suspension, but United – themselves without the banned Darren Fletcher – could not even test them, unable to break up the Catalan giants' hypnotic "passing carousel" in midfield. Thierry Henry twice went close for Barcelona and the brilliant Xavi hit the post with a free-kick before the Azulgrana doubled their lead. Xavi was the creator, picking out Messi with an inviting cross and the smallest man on the pitch headed in.

It was the crowning moment of a remarkable campaign for Messi, who at 22 finished top scorer in the tournament with nine goals. For Josep Guardiola too, as he marked his first campaign as a top-flight coach with the biggest prize of all. "We wanted to say we played and were not being cowards," he said. "There's nothing more dangerous than not taking risks." Those who dared won.