Losing a Champions League final is always painful, but when a team shows such courage, such grit, such character as the Bianconeri did this evening against the star-studded Blaugrana, the overriding emotion is one of great pride. This defeat will not define a wonderful season from Massimiliano Allegri’s men, who have surpassed all expectations this term.
The Bianconeri started the match on the front foot, pressing Barça high up the field. Carlos Tevez fired a shot over the bar in the first minute, with Juve winning a corner a few seconds later.
Allegri’s side were doing a sterling job of denying Barça the space to play their fabled passing game, yet it was the Blaugrana who took the lead in just the 4th minute. Iniesta burst into the box from the left, teeing up Rakitic who coolly slotted past Buffon to put his side in front.
Given the way Juve had started, it was a heavy blow. But the Bianconeri have shown they’re made of stronger stuff in Europe this season and looked to respond immediately. Alvaro Morata led a rapid counter-attack, but Vidal’s right-footed effort whistled just over the bar.
Despite Juve’s pressure, the Barça threat was never far off. When Tevez and Pogba failed to clear their lines, Luis Enrique’s side quickly worked a dangerous opportunity and only a wonder save from Gigi Buffon denied Dani Alves from extending the Catalans’ lead.
Buoyed from their lead, Barça moved through the gears, working the ball around the pitch masterfully. In truth, Juve looked tense, with quick counter-attacks seemingly their most threatening outlet.
Yet the high pressing strategy of the opening exchanges continued to look effective, as indeed it did when Marchisio won the ball back in the Barça area to feed Morata, who exchanged passes with Vidal to shoot just wide. Marchisio himself came close minutes later, firing a thunderbolt just over the bar from the edge of the area.
The Bianconeri were much more comfortable on the ball now, without truly placing Ter Stegen under critical pressure. Meanwhile, there was a constant sense of danger when the Blaugrana shirts got forward – if it wasn’t Messi or Neymar, it was Suarez, who first shot just past the post and then called Buffon into action with a couple of efforts from the edge of the area in the space of a minute. Down the other end, Marchisio kept Ter Stegen honest with a powerful long-range effort.
Juve weren’t out of it, but they needed to be more courageous, more confident, more willing to take risks after the break. And whatever it was Allegri said to them down in the bowels of the regal Olympiastadion, it worked – though not before Buffon denied a Neymar-led break and both Suarez and Messi had fired chances of their own over the bar.
If the early Blaugrana attempts had Juve hearts in mouths up in the stands, those in black and white out on the pitch were unaffected. And they plundered a richly deserved goal on 56 minutes through some wonderful team play.
Marchisio set Lichtsteiner free in the area with a lovely back-heel, with the Swiss setting up Carlos Tevez in the middle. Tevez’s shot rebounded off Ter Stegen to Morata, who made no mistake in sweeping the ball home for 1-1.
It was a different match now. Juve were playing without fear of their adversaries, their heads up and their chests puffed out. It was no longer a case of us containing Barça, but of Barça containing us.
Tevez and Pogba both took aim from the edge of the area, with the former’s shot whistling over the bar and the latter’s nestling in Ter Stegen's arms. Barça looked to restore order through Iniesta and Suarez, with the Uruguayan’s effort foiled once again by Buffon.
Just when the belief was coursing hottest through Juve’s veins, Leo Messi burst in behind the Bianconeri defence, skipping past Barzagli and unleashing a potent shot towards goal. Buffon got down well to make the save, but it fell to the onrushing Suarez, who smashed it into the net to restore the Blaugrana lead. It could have been 3-1 minutes later, but Neymar’s effort was ruled out for handball.
Down but not out, Juve rallied and came close to a second equaliser through Pogba, whose header skimmed the top of the net. Allegri sent on Pereyra and Llorente in place of Vidal and Morata to force the issue, while Evra made way for Coman late on as the Bianconeri coach threw everything he had at the contest.
Marchisio and Tevez called Ter Stegen into action with long-range efforts, but it was not to be. Barça were playing the game out and, in the 7th minute of second-half stoppage time, the Catalans broke at speed to make it 3-1 through Neymar.
It was the last kick of the game, but it won’t be the defining moment of the night, at least from a Juve perspective. That honour goes to the fans, who were on their feet to a man at the final whistle to applaud their heroes.
It’s been an extraordinary season from a fantastic team, one that has claimed scalp after scalp in Italy and in Europe. If tonight’s effort is anything to go by, the Bianconeri won’t have long to wait for another shot at glory.
JUVENTUS 1-3 BARCELONA
GOALS: Rakitic 4, Morata 56, Suarez 68, Neymar 90+7
Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Evra (Coman 89); Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba; Vidal (Pereyra 79); Tevez, Morata (Llorente 85).
Subs not used: Storari, Ogbonna, Padoin, Sturaro.
Ter Stegen; Dani Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Rakitic (Mathieu 90+1), Busquets, Iniesta (Xavi 77); Messi, Suarez (Pedro 90+6), Neymar.
Subs not used: Bravo, Rafinha, Adriano, Batra.
Coach: Luis Enrique.
REFEREE: Çakır (TUR).
ASSISTANTS: Duran (TUR), Ongun (TUR).
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Eriksson (SWE).
ADDITIONAL ASSISTANTS: Göçek (TUR), Şimşek (TUR).
BOOKED: Vidal 11, Pogba 41, Suarez 70.