Atletico Madrid wins Europa league title

Radamel Falcao decided the Europa League final for the second

year in a row, scoring twice in the first half Wednesday to lead

Atletico Madrid to a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in an

all-Spanish matchup.

Atletico captured its second title in three seasons, while

Falcao won consecutive trophies with two different sides, having

scored the only goal in the final for Porto last year.

He netted a spectacular opener in the seventh minute of this

final and then added a second in the 34th. Diego completed

Atletico’s win in the 85th.

”It’s incredible. I give thanks to God because he gave me this

gift that few players ever have the chance to experience,” Falcao

said. ”Today I scored two goals with my left foot – my right one I

used as support.”

Falcao also topped the competition’s scoring chart for the

second straight year, and the Colombia striker now has 29 goals in

29 games over two seasons in the Europa League.

He was brought in as a replacement for Sergio Aguero, when the

striker left Atletico for Manchester City.

”When I came to Atletico, I said I was going to win titles,”

said Falcao, nicknamed ”El Tigre.”

Atletico coach Diego Simeone said he’s admired Falcao since his

days as a boy at River Plate.

”He has no ceiling in terms of his ambition as a player. But I

hope he stays with us,” Simeone said.

Simeone got the better of his former mentor Marcelo Bielsa.

Simeone played for Argentina when Bielsa was the national team

coach.

Atletico, which beat Fulham in the final two years ago, won its

last 12 matches in this season’s competition.

Atletico dominated the final before 52,347 mostly Spanish fans,

who were hard to distinguish since both teams have red and white

colors. Bilbao, being the ”away” team for the occasion, wore

green shirts.

”There was a huge difference between the two teams,” Bielsa

said. ”They imposed their style of play and we did the contrary.

They deserved to win, but we can play much better than the

scoreline indicates. … I am disappointed, the players are

devastated. I am responsible for the performance of my team. We

defended badly and attacked poorly.”

Falcao struck his first after a good through ball from Diego.

The striker was confronted by Fernando Amorebieta but the Bilbao

defender slipped, lost a step and Falcao curled an unstoppable

left-foot shot inside the far post in the upper right corner.

”My father always told me to aim for the far post – he’ll be

happy,” Falcao said.

His second came after another error by Amorebieta, who carried

the ball outside of his penalty box but carelessly lost it again to

Mario Suarez, and Arda Turan collected it to set up Falcao. The

striker deftly turned a defender and slotted the ball into the roof

of the net from close range.

Amorebieta’s miserable evening got even worse when he was easily

rounded by Diego for the final goal.

Fernando Llorente had the first opportunity for Bilbao in the

29th, when he connected with a cross from Ander Herrera, but the

striker did not have good control and put his shot wide.

The match was then briefly interrupted when two young fans ran

onto the pitch but were hustled away by security personnel.

While Atletico controlled the early part of the match, Bilbao

got back in after Llorente’s opportunity and Iker Muniain had a

shot blocked by Thibaut Courtois.

Diego missed narrowly early in the second half, while substitute

Inigo Perez nearly caught Courtois off guard with a looping free

kick from about 35 meters (yards) out.

Ibai Gomez, another Bilbao substitute, had a good effort go high

in the 71st, as did Oscar de Marcos a few minutes later, with

Courtois grounded.

A deflected shot by Markel Susaeta went close but wide of

Atletico’s goal as Bilbao sought to score and Susaeta again had a

close-range shot blocked by Courtois.

On the other side, Atletico got more space to counterattack and

Falcao hit the right post in the 80th.

In the last occasion of the match, Ibai Gomez struck the

crossbar in injury time.

Only three other non-European coaches have won a major UEFA

competition, and all three were Argentines: Luis Carniglia with

Real Madrid, Helenio Herrera with Inter Milan and Alfredo di

Stefano with Valencia.

Simeone became the third man to win the competition as coach and

player. He played for the Inter Milan side that won the 1998 title,

then known as the UEFA Cup. Dino Zoff won in 1977 with Juventus

(beating Bilbao in the final) as a player and in 1990 as the coach.

Huub Stevens won with PSV Eindhoven in 1978 and as coach of Schalke

in 1997.

Lineups:

Atletico: Thibaut Courtois; Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Adrian

Lopez (Eduardo Salvio, 88, Miranda, Mario Suarez, Arda Turan

(Alvaro Dominguez, 90), Gabi, Diego (Koke, 90), Juanfran,

Falcao.

Athletic: Gorka Iraizoz; Jon Aurtenetxe (Ibai Gomez, 45),

Fernando Amorebieta, Andoni Iraola, Ander Iturraspe (Inigo Perez,

45), Oscar de Marcos, Javi Martinez, Ander Herrera (Gaizka Toquero,

63), Javi Martinez, Iker Muniain, Markel Susaeta, Fernando

Llorente.