Barcelona defeats Man United for Champions League title
The debate is over now. Barcelona is on the list of soccer's all-time greatest teams. Led by another dominant performance from Lionel Messi, the Catalan club beat Manchester United 3-1 on Saturday in Wembley, England, to earn its third Champions League title in six seasons and No. 4 overall.
"I feel privileged," Barcelona Coach Pep Guardiola said. "The way we have won is what I am most proud of. We want to play football.
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"Lionel is the best player I have seen and probably the best I will ever see."
Messi put Barcelona ahead to stay with his 53rd goal and helped create another score to give the Spanish league champion some breathing room. Barcelona dominated play at Wembley Stadium with its trademark one-touch passing, but it needed the Argentine striker to conjure a 54th-minute solo strike from the edge of the penalty area to take the lead for the second time.
There seemed to be no space as Messi was tracked by fullback Patrice Evra. But the two-time world player of the year spotted a gap between the central defenders and hit a shot down the middle, beating goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
Messi added a fake and run that led to David Villa taking possession on the edge of the area. From there, the Spain striker curled a shot into the top corner of the net.
Soccer commentators had said before the game that Barcelona, which already had won a third straight Spanish league title, would be ranked among the sport's truly great teams with a victory over United. Now, with four European titles, only Liverpool, AC Milan and Barcelona's fierce rival Real Madrid have won more.
■ Mohamed bin Hammam withdrew from FIFA's presidential election, clearing the path for Sepp Blatter to continue his reign as head of world soccer's governing body as it deals with another corruption crisis. The Qatari challenger to 13-year incumbent Blatter announced his withdrawal before a FIFA ethics hearing in Geneva, during which he is expected to answer accusations he had arranged bribes for up to 25 presidential voters on a campaign visit to the Caribbean. Blatter and FIFA Vice President Jack Warner also are accused of corruption.
Bin Hammam decided to run for the presidency after playing a key role in Qatar winning the rights to host the 2022 World Cup.
Santiva sharp in work for Belmont Stakes
Santiva, considered probable to run in the Belmont Stakes, worked 5 furlongs over a fast Churchill Downs track Saturday morning in 1:00.60 under assistant trainer Brendan Walsh. Santiva was the first horse on the track after the renovation break and worked in company with Golden Gulch. They went the first 3 furlongs in 36.20 and galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:14.60.
"He worked really, really well today," trainer Eddie Kenneally said. "He's very fit. He went the minute and three-fifths nicely and didn't overexert himself."
The 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
■ Hibaayeb beat Giants Play by one length in the $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. The 4-year-old earned her fourth win in 14 starts. John Velazquez was aboard for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
■ Crimson China rallied in the stretch to post a one-length victory over Beachcombing in the $70,000 Lamplighter Stakes at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. In the co-featured $65,000 John J. Reilly Handicap, G.J. Stable's Dabnabit scored a front-running 1¾-length victory over favored Gunfighter.
Florida, Vandy reach SEC title game
Nolan Fontana drove in the go-ahead run on a groundout in the top of the ninth inning to lift Florida into the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game with a 3-2 win over Georgia on Saturday in Hoover, Ala. Fontana also hit a two-run homer in the third inning for the Gators (44-16), who will face Vanderbilt for the title.
Georgia (31-30) did become eligible for an NCAA regional berth by winning the first game 4-3. In the first inning of that game, Florida pitcher Brian Johnson sustained a concussion after getting struck in the back of the head by a ball thrown by catcher Mike Zunino. Johnson lay on the ground for several minutes before being carted off on a stretcher. A Florida spokesman said tests at a local hospital showed no fractures, bruises or bleeding. Johnson was released and went to the team hotel, the spokesman said. Johnson crouched low on the mound after a wild pitch but was hit when Zunino attempted to throw out a runner at second base.
■ Connor Harrell hit a two-run homer in the second inning and five Vanderbilt pitchers made the early lead hold up in a 3-2 victory over Arkansas to advance to the SEC championship. The Commodores (47-9) will play for the title for the fifth time in eight years. SEC pitcher of the year Grayson Garvin (12-1) improved to 10-0 in conference games this season. Commodores closer Navery Moore pitched a perfect ninth to close out the win and earn his 11th save.
Louisville out in Big East semifinals
Jimmy Brennan went 3-for-5 and Joe Panik had two hits, drove in two runs and stole two bases to lead St. John's to a 5-1 victory against Louisville in the Big East Conference Tournament. St. John's (35-19) will play Seton Hall in Sunday's finals at noon. Ryan Wright accounted for the Cardinals' only RBI, increasing his Big East Tournament record to 24. Gabriel Shaw (0-3) took the loss for Louisville after allowing three runs and five hits with six strikeouts in four innings.
The last word
Mardy Fish summed up the mind-set of American tennis players at the French Open after his loss Saturday left the U.S. without a man or woman in the clay-court Grand Slam tournament's fourth round:
"It's never too early to think about grass (courts) for us."