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29.05.2009 13:41

Champions League full of challenges overcome

Jordi Clos

In winning the Champions League, Barça have achieved some things they had never done before. The Lyon, Bayern, Chelsea and Manchester United games have all changed history.

It was no easy route to Champions League glory for Barça. The groups stages may have presented few problems, but from then on things got decidedly more difficult. Previous struggles against French sides, losses to Bayern, failures to qualify after goalless first legs and misfortune in clashes with Manchester United were things that had to become things of the past.

But treble winning Barça held on, game after game, and have rewritten the history books.

Lyon, first French victim

WEB_13.jpgWhen Pep Guardiola’s side played their first knockout round game against Olympique Lyon, they knew that Barça had never won a home and away tie against a French club. Nice in the UEFA Cup of 1973/74, Metz in the Cup Winners Cup of 84/85, and Paris SG in the Champions League of 94/95 had all put Barça out. Barça broke the pattern with a draw at Gerland (1-1) followed by an emphatic win at the Camp Nou (5-2).

Bayern downed at last

QM3D4607.jpgNext up were German champions Bayern Munich. They had only met twice before, and the Bavarians came out tops both times. The first meting was in the semi finals of the UEFA Cup in 95/96, with Bayern getting the better of Cruyff’s side, and then again in the group stages of the Champions League 98/99, the Germans won both games against the side then coached by Van Gaal.

This time round, Barça cruised to a sensational 4-0 win at the Camp Nou. The return at the Allianz Arena was a mere formality that ended 1-1.

0-0 home leg bogey ended

web_23.jpgChelsea were a tough prospect in the semis, and the first leg was at home. Barça dominated possession, but couldn’t find their way through the Blues’ tight defence. The game ended 0-0. The two previous times this situation had arisen in Europe, against Liverpool (UEFA Cup semi final 2001) and Manchester United (Champions League semi final 2008) they had failed to qualify.

Not this time. The game at Stamford Bridge produced perhaps the most magnificent moment of the entire treble. In the 92nd minute, with Barça 1-0 down and heading out of the competition, and with only ten men on the park following Abidal’s red card, Alves crossed from the right, Eto’o failed to control the ball but Messi was waiting to slide the ball through to Iniesta to bang past Cech and into the back of the net. The stuff that legends are made of.

Manchester United in the final

WEB_12.jpgBut Manchester United still stood between Barça and the chance to take the crown in Rome. They had already met in one final before, the Cup Winners Cup in 1991, when under Alex Ferguson, not yet ‘Sir’ at the time, collecting the honours (2-1). Other meetings in the knockout rounds of competitions, the Cup Winners Cup in 83/84 and last season’s Champions League semi finals, had also ended with the Red Devils going through.

But the defending champions were obliged to pass the baton on to Barça after yet another exemplary display of football crowned by two goals from Eto’o and Messi.
Champions League full of challenges overcome
Two away second legs
Not counting the preliminary rounds, the last time Barça won a European Cup fixture when having to play the first leg at home was way back in 1993/94, against Austria Vienna in the second round. This season they achieved the feat twice, against both Bayern and Chelsea.

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