Daily Visual 30.05.15: Europe’s Cup Final Climax

Cup 1

It was a day of cup finals across Europe’s major footballing nations. In England, league form over the course of the 2014/15 season held into the FA Cup final, as Arsenal – who finished third in the Premier League – comfortably beat Aston Villa – who narrowly avoided relegation from the top division, finishing in seventeenth, their performances fading markedly over the last few weeks despite their upturn in fortunes following Tim Sherwood’s installation as manager in February.

Arsenal won the final 4-0, dominating the game from the outset, playing at a high tempo and pressing up the pitch, and managing sixteen shots and eight corners to Villa’s two and nil. Theo Walcott opened the scoring with a blistering left-footed volley that beat Shay Given at his near post five minutes before half-time; Alexis Sánchez doubled Arsenal’s lead on fifty minutes with a searing strike from twenty-five yards that swerved and dipped beyond Given’s grasp; Per Mertesacker lost Christian Benteke to head in from a corner; and with almost the last kick of the game, Olivier Giroud flicked the ball home from a low cross courtesy of Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain. Arsenal thereby retained the FA Cup trophy, and in the process became the most successful side in the competition’s history, with twelve victories in total – six of which have come under Arsène Wenger.

In Germany, Jürgen Klopp’s final game as manager of Borussia Dortmund, after seven largely successful years at the helm of the club, ended in defeat. Though they took the lead in the DFB-Pokal final after just five minutes, thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turning in Shinji Kagawa’s cross from the right wing, by half-time Dortmund were 3-1 down against Wolfsburg, and they failed in the second half to make up the deficit. Luiz Gustavo equalised after Mitchell Langerak could only parry Naldo’s free-kick; Kevin De Bruyne finished from twenty yards; and Bas Dost headed in to secure the victory. Wolfsburg finished second in this season’s Bundesliga, and have assembled a team full of attacking talent in the midfield and down the flanks; while Dortmund had already qualified for the Europa League, itself a triumph after spending much of the season fighting relegation.

The final of the Coupe de France saw Paris Saint-Germain emerge victorious by virtue of a single goal, scored in the sixty-fourth minute by Edinson Cavani. His superb run and leap and powerful header went in off the bar, with Auxerre goalkeeper Donovan Léon’s back only helping the ball into the back of the net. The win made Paris Saint-Germain the first team to win a domestic treble in French football history: they secured the Ligue 1 title weeks ago, and the Coupe de la Ligue against their main challengers, Olympique Lyonnais, in April.

Barcelona can look towards an even greater treble: having excelled over Real Madrid in La Liga, their victory today in the Copa del Rey versus Athletic Bilbao leaves them awaiting next Saturday’s Champions League final, when they will meet Juventus. Barcelona defeated Bilbao 3-1, with two goals by Lionel Messi and one from Neymar, before twenty-year-old Iñaki Williams – who in February became the first black goalscorer in the Basque club’s history – pulled one back for Bilbao. Messi’s opener pipped Sánchez’s strike for the goal of the day: a weaving run from the left touchline, from just inside the Bilbao half, culminating in a near-post finish. He played a part too in Neymar’s goal, with Luis Suárez eventually squaring the ball for the Brazilian – the attacking trio have now scored a record 120 goals in all competitions this season – and Messi’s second of the game put Barcelona into an unassailable lead. With the final controversially taking place at the Camp Nou, this was Xavi’s last match at his home ground, ahead of his summer move to Qatar.

Elsewhere, in Italy the Serie A season comes to a close over this weekend, with the essentials of the league title, Champions League qualification, and relegation already decided. The 2015 Coppa Italia final took place a week and a a half ago, and saw Juventus triumph 2-1 over Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The 2014-15 Russian Cup was decided a day later in Astrakhan, with Lokomotiv Moscow coming from behind to beat Kuban Krasnodar 3-1 after extra time. Still to look forward to, the 2014–15 Taça de Portugal will take place tomorrow afternoon, with Sporting set to face Braga. The clubs finished third and fourth respectively in this season’s Primeira Liga, but with Sporting eighteen points better off.

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On this day in 1922 the Lincoln Memorial – designed by the architect Henry Bacon, sculpted by Daniel Chester French, carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, and with the two cella murals painted by Jules Guérin – was dedicated at Washington, D.C.

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