Tuesday 9 June 2015 07:25, UK
We look at Andres Iniesta’s uncanny knack of delivering in the biggest of matches.
Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and Neymar scored the goals. Lionel Messi got the attention and thoughts soon turned to Xavi on the occasion of his final appearance for Barcelona. But the man-of-the-match award went to Andres Iniesta. The quiet man for the big occasion.
It’s not the first time. In fact, Iniesta’s man-of-the-match award in Barcelona’s 3-1 Champions League final win over Juventus on Saturday night completes the set. He has become the first man to receive the award in a World Cup final, European Championship final and a Champions League final.
Given the quality of players on the pitch in those games, it’s quite an accomplishment. And it’s made all the more remarkable given that Iniesta did not score a goal and provided just one assist in 24 La Liga appearances for Barcelona this past season.
It took him just four minutes in Berlin to match that tally as he showed the awareness to square the ball to Rakitic to give Barca the lead. Here we examine that amazing habit of stealing the show when it matters most…
2015 Champions League final: Juventus 1-3 Barcelona
Iniesta had been a doubt for the final due to a calf injury and was the first of the 22 players who started the game to be substituted. No matter. In the 78 minutes he was on the field, the 31-year-old did more than enough to earn his award. Prompting and probing from the outset, his assist for Rakitic’s early goal that gave Barcelona the lead means he has now set up a team-mate to score in three different Champions League finals – a record in the modern era.
2012 European Championship final: Spain 4-0 Italy
Spain’s thrashing of Italy as they retained the trophy in the Euro 2012 final in Ukraine was a collective team effort. However, it was Iniesta who impressed most – once again showing why goals and assists don’t tell the full story. The master of the assist to the assist, it was his through-ball that put Cesc Fabregas away early on to pull the ball back for David Silva to score. It set the tone for Spain and another Iniesta masterclass.
2011 UEFA Super Cup: Barcelona 2-0 Porto
Iniesta won the UEFA Super Cup for the second time in his career with a starring performance against Europa League winners Porto in Monaco in August 2011. Goals from Messi and Fabregas were enough for a 2-0 win but Iniesta was the player in top form, making light of a difficult pitch to dribble past opponents with ease. There might have been an assist had David Villa scored when clean through but Iniesta contented himself with the man-of-the-match award instead.
2010: World Cup final: Spain 1-0 Netherlands
Moments in football don’t come much bigger than this. After almost two hours of play in Johannesburg, with both teams having chances to win the game, it was Iniesta who delivered the decisive blow as he thumped the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg for the winner. Upon scoring, he unveiled a T-shirt in memory of Dani Jarque, the Espanyol defender and former Spain Under-21 team-mate who had died of a heart-attack the previous year.