Falcao Double Hands Atletico Europa League Victory
A superb first-half brace from Colombian striker Radamel Falcao and a late goal from Diego handed Atletico Madrid a thoroughly deserved 3-0 victory over Spanish rivals Athletic Bilbao to win them the Europa League at last night’s final in Bucharest.
Though Marcelo Bielsa’s side had become one of the most feted teams in Europe following their brilliant two-legged victory over Manchester United in the last sixteen, Athletic Bilbao simply froze on the big occasion as a bustling performance from Atletico saw them comfortably beaten.
Billed as the battle between two of La Liga’s most explosive marksmen in Falcao and Fernando Llorente – both of whom had stations in the city temporarily named after them for the night – it was the former who came out on top as his trickery and movement constantly undid the Bilbao backline.
Indeed, it took the Colombian forward just seven minutes to make his mark on the tie as a clever step-over left Fernando Amorebieta completely bamboozled, leaving the Bilbao player a mere bystander as Falcao curled a sublime left-footed strike inside the post with Gorka Iraizoz beaten.
The striker’s artistry was more than matched by his efficiency too, as 11 minutes from time he scored his second goal of the night as he seized on more hesitancy from Amorebieta to play a one-two with Diego and deftly turn a trio of defenders before hammering home an unstoppable finish.
Bielsa made two changes at half time in an effort to drag his ailing side back into the game with Inigo Perez and Ibai Gomez both taking to the field, and though the changes had a positive impact on his team’s overall performance, wasteful finishing prevented them from mounting a serious comeback.
Atletico’s Brazilian midfielder Diego was not so profligate, however, as he wrapped up the tie in the 85th minute after Amorebieta was exposed once more when he dribbled past him to slot home a third from close range and hand the Madrid side their second Europa League title in as many years.