ROME (AFP) – Manchester United’s world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo had to settle for second best on Wednesday as Lionel Messi scored in Barcelona’s 2-0 win to claim the Champions League title.
Ronaldo, voted the 2008 world player of the year with Messi as runner-up, had said he wanted to score a goal in Rome, but it was the 21-year-old magician Messi who netted Barcelona’s second after Samuel Eto’o scored the first after 10 minutes.
With Barcelona in control, Messi got onto a cross from midfielder Xavi Hernandez to head past United goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar on 70 minutes to take the title back to Spain with his ninth goal of the campaign.
The 21-year-old was breath-taking here as Barcelona ended United’s dream of becoming the first team to defend the Champions League title after their success in Moscow 12 months before.
The Spaniards had the better of the first-half when Eto’o grabbed the opening goal as United’s experiment of playing Ronaldo as the lone striker in a three-man attack failed to pay off.
Manchester coach Sir Alex Ferguson abandoned his formation before half-time, but the damage was already done with Messi and Andres Iniesta causing United no end of problems at the other end.
Ronaldo, 24, began the game looking like he wanted to win the match single-handedly and earned a free-kick after only 90 seconds, but Park Ji-Sung’s follow-up was pushed over for a corner.
And the Portuguese star went close with a shot after eight minutes which beat both the post and Victor Valdes, before Eto’o got the first.
Ronaldo won a free-kick on 16 minutes after Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique fouled him, but captain Ryan Giggs could only curl the ball over the bar.
Messi had his first clear chance to score on 18 minutes when his shot beat van der Saar but cleared the bar, while Ronaldo went wide with his second chance.
As a thorn in United’s side, the Argentinian star had a golden chance to score on 50 minutes when he was ruled off-side with the goal at his mercy and then hit the post from a free-kick moments later before he found the net on 70 minutes.
Messi finishes as the tournament’s top scorer having opened his account last October in spectacular style with two goals in the last seven minutes to give Barcelona a dramatic 2-1 win at Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stages.
Having scored the third goal in Barcelona’s 5-2 win at home to Lyon in the first knock-out stage, Messi hit two first-half goals as Bayern Munich were routed 4-0 in the quarter-final.