Rivaldo's Incredible Hat-Trick That Salvaged Barcelona's Forgetful Season

The 2000/2001 season got off to a disastrous start for Barcelona and their newly elected president Joan Gaspart even before a ball was kicked.


In July 2000, the Catalans lost their Portuguese talisman Luis Figo as he completed a highly controversial transfer to eternal rival Real Madrid. This was followed with a terrible UEFA Champions League campaign which saw Barcelona crash out in the 1st group stage in the month of November.


As the poor run of results continued in La Liga, this ultimately led to coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer being sacked in April 2001 with Carles Rexach taking over.


Even the UEFA Cup (a competition they landed in via elimination in the Champions League) eluded Barcelona as they succumbed to Liverpool in the semifinals. They also fell at the semifinal stage in the Copa del Rey.


As a consequence, an awful 2000/2001 campaign hinged on the 38th and final matchday. Barcelona v Valencia at the Camp Nou with 4th spot and qualification for next season's Champions League at stake. Valencia just needed to avoid defeat while only a victory would do for Barcelona.


Los Che were going through a golden period of their own having finished as Champions League runner up in both 2000 and 2001.


Barca needed their underperforming squad to deliver the goods however it would need to happen against a tough and talented opponent.


With 98,000 boisterous supporters them, the Blaugrana got off to the perfect start after just 4 minutes with Brazilian midfielder Rivaldo placing a perfectly struck free-kick over the wall and beyond goalkeeper Santiago Canizares.


Valencia fought back and equalised after 25 minutes with inspirational midfielder Ruben Baraja heading in from a corner.


However just on the stroke of halftime, the Catalan faithful were up on their feet as Rivaldo once again struck a well placed left footed shot from outside the box low and into the bottom corner for a 2-1 lead at the break.


It didn't take long for Valencia to once again silence the vocal support. Just two minutes into the second half, left back Fabio Aurelio put in a cross where Ruben Baraja once more connected with a fantastic header from just inside the penalty area for his own double to make it 2-2. Advantage Valencia.


With it all to do again for Barcelona and with the minutes ticking by and level of tension rising in the Camp Nou, something heroic was required.


With just one minute plus stoppage time remaining Dutch defender Frank de Boer, not too far inside Valencia's half, lofted a delicate chip into the path of Rivaldo.


The 1999 FIFA World Player of the Year received the ball just outside the penalty box with his back to goal, lifted the ball up high with his chest and produced a stunning overhead kick beyond Canizares to complete one of the greatest football hat-tricks of all time.


The Camp Nou erupted again in ecstasy and, more importantly, relief as Barcelona hung on to secure Champions League football for the following season in dramatic circumstances.


While season 2000/2001 was largely disappointing, Rivaldo's majestic performance on that warm summer night in June 2001 will live long in the memory of Barcelona supporters.


- Rayan Adasi for www.footballretro.com

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