Game in a sentence
A masterclass in finishing from Colombian sensation Radamel Falcao hands Atletico Madrid their second Europa League title in three years as his first half brace was enough to guide his team to a 3-0 victory in Bucharest.
- One year ago in Dublin for Porto, Falcao scored his 38th goal in all competitions to defeat a team from the same country and 12 months on the hitman ensured history repeated itself as goals in the 7th and 34th minute proved to be the difference against a brave Bilbao.
- The quality of the goals, numbers 31 and 32 in all competitions, cannot be overstated. The first, worthy of winning any game let alone a final, saw the striker drift off into a wide area, receive the ball and come up against three defenders as he entered the box. The defenders didn’t get too tight on him, allowing him to turn on his left before rocketing a fantastic shot into the far corner past Gorka Iraizo in goal. It was an unstoppable shot and in many just epitomized everything Falcao is excellent at. The running into space, the confidence to turn and shoot and the ability to be ruthless when his team needed him to be.
- The goal rocked Marcelo Bielsa’s young team and their confidence, style and fluency with the ball took some time to come out. Credit had to go to Atletico for preventing them, particularly the midfield duo of Mario Suarez and Gabi who were outstanding in closing down the spaces and countering with pace when they got the ball back.
- The second goal was a frustrating one for Bielsa’s men who had dealt with a free kick but were punished for their tendency to play the ball out from their own half when Fernando Amorebieta turned the ball over and suddenly the ball found Falcao in the box and he did the rest, turning on to his left foot and smashing his side into a two goal lead.
- The goal gave Falcao his 12th Europa League goal, a tournament that certainly belongs to him having now won the golden boot in it in each of the past two years. It may also have been his last ever in this competition. We still don’t know if Atletico Madrid will be in the Champions League next season (they should be for winning this in my opinion) but it appears the Colombian is at the level now where he is needed to be seen on the biggest stage in European football.
- The second half was certainly much closer than the first and Bielsa’s two changes at half-time certainly gave his side more of a threat in the final third and they had more than two good chances to get a goal. Star striker Fernando Llorente had a poor game and looked to be carrying an injury as he lacked movement and overall sharpness.
- As usual, the brilliant Iker Muniain had a part to play in the match and was the best player for twenty minutes as the game went in to the final quarter and it wasn’t a surprise to see the youngster break down in tears when Atletico broke away on 85 minutes and score through Diego to secure the victory. Muniain, a star in the making, still only 19, will have better days in this game that is for sure.
- Athletic Bilbao will rue their missed chances and didn’t deserve to lose a game by a three goal margin but this young side will certainly learn from this game. It was hard to not feel for their passionate fans in Bucharest but they should be very proud of their club and their results in this competition.
- In the end the difference was Falcao. Without his two world class finishes the result may well have been different as Bilbao certainly grew into the game and found space the longer the game wore on.
- Radamel Falcao
- Mario Suarez
- Iker Muniain