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English Premiership

Henry wins the Holy Grail at last

ROME, May 28 – France football great Thierry Henry at last added the Champions League to his medals cabinet here on Wednesday and made it a full house of major football titles.MESSI_AND_HENRYThe 31-year-old – who won the World Cup and Euro titles with France – had tasted final defeat with Arsenal when they lost 2-1 to ironically Barcelona in 2006.

But that record was set straight here on Wednesday as Barcelona deservedly beat holders Manchester United 2-0 with goals by Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi, who outshone his United counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo.

Henry too could have all but wrapped the match up soon after half-time with Barca leading 1-0 when he produced a mesmerising piece of individual skill only to be thwarted by Edwin van der Sar.

However, that faded into insignificance for Henry as he soaked up what it meant to win the greatest trophy in European club football.

"Finally I have won it!" said the former Monaco and Juventus striker, who after a miserable first season at Barca under Frank Rijkaard has been rejuvenated under Pep Guardiola.
"I have been waiting for so long for this.

"The last five minutes were the longest in my life. I know we were 2-0 up but we were playing the best team in the world (referring to the world club championship United won earlier this year).

"We didn’t start well and Man Utd dominated for 10 minutes but then we got our passing game together and we ran the game.

"It’s a double celebration as it is my daughter’s birthday."

For his outstanding team-mate Andres Iniesta – whose last-gasp goal had secured their place in the final at the expense of last year’s finalists Chelsea – it was hard to get a word out of him.

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"I am speechless," gasped the Euro 2008-winning star.

"The Cup is so beautiful. It’s the perfect ending to a spectacular season."

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson accepted defeat with good grace.

"We started the game brightly but the goal was a killer," said the 67-year-old Scot, who looked to have had a good omen when one of his horses Last Three Minutes won a race earlier on Wednesday.

"However, they are a better team than us. We conceded two bad goals. Our defence has been good all season but those were two shoddy goals to lose."

Ferguson, who has nevertheless guided United to the title and to the League Cup this season as well as the World Club Championship, paid special tribute to not Messi but to Iniesta and man of the match Xavi Hernandez.

"Xavi and Iniesta can keep the ball so well that you get the impression they have had it all night.

"That makes it really difficult for us."

However, Ferguson said that his side would bounce back from a match they had barely ever been competitive in.

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"The team has done well this season, it;s their 66th match so fatigue does play a part. And they have showed great resilience. But they have to accept that they will have to be better at this level next season. That is the lesson to be learnt."

United England central defender Rio Ferdinand accepted that none of the team had really shown their true form – especially true of him and central efensive partner Nemanja Vidic, both badly caught out for the diminutive Messi’s goal when he headed home unopposed.

"Credit to Barcelona, they deserved it as they were the best side. Obviously it is very disappointing for us," said Ferdinand, who was only cleared fit on the eve of the match.
"None of us played well tonight, it was a collective failure.

"We did create chances but they scored off their first chance and congratulations to them, they were the better team.

"With the Messi goal we could have done better certainly but special moments decide matches and they got the goals."

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