Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann struck twice as the Spanish side outclassed hapless Olympique de Marseille 3-0 on Wednesday to win the Europa League for the third time.
The scoreline mirrored the Spanish side’s last Europa League final win over Athletic Bilbao in 2012 and cemented their status as one of the continent’s most consistent teams since Argentine coach Diego Simeone transformed their fortunes.
The only side to overcome them in knockout European football since 2013 are arch-rivals Real Madrid, who beat them in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals and knocked them out of the same competition in 2015 and 2017.
“They are an attacking team they work very well but we focused on our game, which was to defend well, be a tough team and take advantage of their mistakes,” Griezmann told reporters.
“I left home when I was 14 years old because I wanted to win trophies, this is my second and I hope I can win more.”
Marseille dominated the opening stages but gifted Atletico the lead when Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa failed to control goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s pass out and Gabi intercepted before setting Griezmann free to finish neatly in the 21st minute.
The French side wasted a chance to take a fourth-minute lead when Valere Germain skewed his shot wide with only Jan Oblak to beat and it got worse for them when playmaker Dimitri Payet left the field injured in floods of tears in the 32nd minute.
Four minutes after the re-start, Koke ran into a hole in midfield and slipped the ball to Griezmann who deftly dinked it past Mandanda, and Gabi added a late third to confirm Marseille’s third defeat in as many finals in the competition.
Marseille had been emphatically beaten and could only salute their fervent supporters, who outnumbered the Spanish fans in the 59,000-capacity Groupama Stadium and let off flares and firecrackers at the start and end of the match.
“The score does not reflect the game, the more experienced team won, they know how to play these matches, they play in the Champions League regularly so we should not be ashamed of losing this match,” Marseille coach Rudi Garcia said.
“Losing Dimitri was obviously a big issue for us. We lost a great player at set-pieces, if there’s one part of the game where we could have been dangerous, it would have been set- pieces.” – Reuters
Story first published: 17th May 2018