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Monday, December 10, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Barcelona’s offensive depth turns back Juventus for Champions League crown

Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, right, holds up the Champions League trophy as Neymar looks on. (Associated Press)
Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, right, holds up the Champions League trophy as Neymar looks on. (Associated Press)

BERLIN – Barcelona’s mighty attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar won the Champions League on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Juventus that showed the beauty of fluent and attacking football after days of scandal tarnished the sport.

The Spanish champion dominated the game, but the Italian team played its part by fighting back from a goal down and seeking to match the complex spells woven by Barcelona’s talented players. But Juventus could not hang in there when Barca accelerated into an unmatchable rhythm.

Watched by more than 70,000 people in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, Juventus striker Alvaro Morata canceled out Ivan Rakitic’s early opener, Messi set up the vital second for Suarez and Neymar secured Barcelona’s fifth European Cup deep into stoppage time with the last kick of the game.

The Messi-Suarez-Neymar axis complete the season with a combined 122 goals – and now European winners’ medals to join their league and cup ones.

Three years after Pep Guardiola left Barcelona and after last season ended without a trophy, a treble in Luis Enrique’s first season in charge suggests the Catalan giants could be ready for a new period of European dominance.

“A magnificent, spectacular day,” Enrique said. “I congratulate my players, a unique group of players, their talent and commitment has been beyond doubt.”

With a first Champions League triumph since 2011, Barca has won European soccer’s top trophy four times in the last decade.

Andres Iniesta has featured in each final and the midfielder is also celebrating his second treble. Iniesta played a deep defensive midfield role in Berlin as the strikers caused havoc in the panicky Juventus defense.

“We won’t see this happen again very often,” Iniesta said. “Six years later we did (the treble) again. All my words fall short. Let the people enjoy this Barca.”

Few will be enjoying the victory more than Suarez.

The Uruguay striker began the season in shame, signed from Liverpool for $110 million despite being handed a four-month ban by FIFA for biting an opponent at the World Cup. He powered in Barcelona’s second goal in the 68th minute after Messi’s shot was palmed away by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

“When you come to a team like Barca, you know that you have come to win,” Suarez said. “This is a dream.”

Twice Suarez writhed around in agony, winning free-kicks and feigning serious injury. Juventus fans yelled when he recovered miraculously after wasting minutes.

Just like Suarez, Neymar has collected the top prize in club soccer for the first time after two years at Barcelona.

Neymar had a goal disallowed for handball but, with the final going into a seventh minute of stoppage time, the Brazil striker found space to score again as Juventus desperately sought a leveler, leaving its defense bare. This time it counted.


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