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Barcelona Wins Champions League

Posted: May 27, 2009, 5:59 PM ; Updated: May 27, 2009, 6:12 PM

ROME (AP) -- A rare headed goal by Lionel Messi helped Barcelona beat Manchester United 2-0 in the Champions League final on Wednesday, giving the Spanish side its third European Cup title and third trophy in a magical season.

Samuel Eto'o put the Spanish champions ahead in the 10th minute and Messi's 70th-minute goal -- his ninth in the Champions League this season -- sealed the victory over the defending champions at the Stadio Olimpico.

The triumph completed a sweep of titles for 38-year-old Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola in his first season, after wins in the Spanish league and cup. The former Barcelona star, who started as a ball boy at Camp Nou, now joins the ranks of those who have won the title both as a player and a coach.

Guardiola became the youngest coach to win European soccer's top club competition since the European Cup became the Champions League in 1993. Barcelona also won the trophy in 1992 and 2006.

"No team has ever done the treble in Spain, and we'll be remembered as the first team to do it,'' Barcelona striker Thierry Henry said. "That's amazing.''

United had been chasing its fourth European Cup title, and fourth trophy this season after winning the Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup and League Cup.

But United was thoroughly outplayed by the Spanish side as Messi scored his 38th goal of an amazing year for Barcelona, which has 53 league and cup goals this season.

Xavi floated a diagonal ball into the United area to find Messi unmarked, and the 5-foot-7 Argentina striker -- renowned for his deft dribbling and shooting -- used his head to loop the ball over United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and into the net.

Messi set off colorful celebrations at one end of the stadium, filled with 62,467 fans, and left English fans in silence.

The loss left Man United manager Alex Ferguson at 25 titles in 23 seasons. He failed to match Liverpool's Bob Paisley's three titles in the competition.

"We started the game brightly. We were confident and we could have been in front,'' Ferguson said. "We had the ball but didn't use it very well. ... We defended fantastically all season but they were two shoddy goals.

"We didn't play as well as we can, but they are a good team. We have to give them credit. Xavi (Hernandez) and (Andres) Iniesta can keep the ball all night. They made it very difficult.''

South Korean winger Park Ji-sung became the first Asian to play in a Champions League final. He almost scored for United in the opening minute but his shot was deflected wide after Cristiano Ronaldo's free kick had been blocked by the goalkeeper. It was the nearest United came to scoring all night.

The victory also marked the first Champions League title for Henry, the French striker who was on the losing side when Arsenal lost to Barcelona in 2006.

"Finally, I've been waiting for so long to get this title and now finally today,'' said Henry, who had been doubtful for the final because of a knee injury. "The last five minutes were the longest of my life.''

United almost went ahead in the opening minute when a needless foul by Yaya Toure on Anderson handed Ronaldo an early free kick. His powerful drive was blocked by the hands of goalkeeper Victor Valdes and Park's rebound was deflected for a corner by Gerard Pique.

With Barcelona's dangerous forwards barely getting a touch of the ball in the early stages, there was little danger at the other end until the Spanish champions went ahead with their first attack of the game.

Iniesta started the move with a break through midfield and found Eto'o on the right. The striker cut inside a weak tackle by Nemanja Vidic and poked a low angled shot past Van de Sar.

The goal changed the pattern of the play with Barcelona's stars settling into their confident style of interpassing. United, now chasing the game, was unable to create any real danger. Ronaldo wanted to shoot at every opportunity, but fired wide and headed over.

Seeing his title slipping away, Ferguson reshaped his attack for the second half.

The 67-year-old Scot took off midfielder Anderson and sent on Carlos Tevez, the Argentina striker who is convinced he's leaving the club because United won't turn his loan deal into a full term transfer.

That left United undermanned in midfield and Barcelona continued to create openings.

Ferguson made another change when he took off Park and sent on Dimitar Berbatov.

Barcelona could have added more but van der Sar saved twice from Carles Puyol and Ronaldo was shown the yellow card for some petulant late challenges on the Barcelona captain.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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