Barcelona Rules European Soccer After Beating United

For the third time in six seasons, Barcelona is the king of European soccer.

Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi and David Villa scored as the Spanish league title holders beat Manchester United 3-1 in the Champions League final last night at London’s Wembley Stadium. It’s the fourth time Barcelona has captured Europe’s elite club competition and the second time in three seasons it has beaten United.

“We were beaten by the best team in Europe and there is no shame in that,” United manager Alex Ferguson told ITV. “Sometimes you come up against a far better team and tonight was one of those nights.”

Wayne Rooney scored for United, which was playing in its third final in four seasons.

Barcelona dominated with 63 percent of possession and put 12 of 16 shot attempts on target. Rooney’s goal was United’s only on-target shot in three attempts.

“We are happy to win, but we are so happy to show the world our way to play,” Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola said in an interview with Sky Sports. “We have beaten one of the best teams in the world.”

Barcelona came into the final as the competition’s highest- scoring team with 27 goals in 12 games. United had allowed just four goals in its 12 games and none away from home.

“If you look at it, we have never played a team in the past like Barcelona,” United captain Nemanja Vidic told ITV. “They played good football and deserved to win.”

No Berbatov

Ferguson decided not to include striker Dimitar Berbatov in his squad, naming Michael Owen as a substitute instead. Berbatov tied Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez as the top scorer in the English Premier League this season with 21 goals.

Guardiola kept captain Carles Puyol among his subs and he came on in the final minute. Xavi Hernandez wore the captain’s armband in the game and passed it to Eric Abidal, who had surgery for a tumor on his liver in March, to accept the trophy.

Barcelona took the lead in the 27th minute as Xavi sent a pass to the right side of the United area for Pedro, who slid a shot past goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

United tied the game seven minutes later when Rooney lifted a pass into the area for Ryan Giggs, who flicked the ball back to the striker, who curled a shot into the top corner.

Barcelona took the lead nine minutes into the second half as Messi got a pass from Andres Iniesta, took two touches and powered a left-footed shot from 20 yards by van der Sar, who was playing the final game of his career. It was the 53rd goal of the season for the Argentine, who finished as the Champions League’s top scorer with 12. He was named Man of the Match.

Final Goal

The Spanish champion clinched the victory in the 69th minute as Messi carried the ball into the right side of the United area. It eventually went to Villa, who curled a shot from just outside the area into the top right corner.

Barcelona matches Ajax and Bayern Munich with four European Cups. Only Real Madrid (nine), AC Milan (seven) and Liverpool (five) have won more.

The game was a rematch of the 2009 final in Rome won by Barcelona 2-0.

“We gave it a better shot this time than last time, even though the score line was 3-1,” United defender Rio Ferdinand told Sky Sports. “They’ve got a system they work to and did it well.”

Both teams won their first European Cup at Wembley, United in 1968 and Barcelona in 1992. United is the fourth team to lose the final on home soil, joining France’s Stade de Reims (1956), Italy’s Roma (1984) and Barcelona (1986).

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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