Spain’s Atletico Madrid rout Marseille in Europa League final

LYON, FRANCE - MAY 16: Fernanado Torres of Athletico Madrid holds the trophy during the UEFA Europa League Final between Olympique de Marseille and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stade de Lyon on May 16, 2018 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Atletico Madrid’s French striker Antoine Griezmann led the charge as the Spanish side claimed its third Europa League trophy in nine seasons, downing French side Olympique Marseille 3-0 in the final in Lyon Wednesday night.

Griezmann returned to France to play the final against his boyhood club and did so with a bang, scoring either side of half time to put the game beyond the reach of Marseille.

Marseille had started the match brightly, but came to regret an early miss by lone forward Valere Germain, who lofted a shot high over the bar after being presented with an open goal.

The miss was followed by a costly miscontrol by Andre Zambo Anguissa which gifted Griezmann his first of the night on 21 minutes. The misery was compounded by the loss of Marseille’s talismanic defender and captain Dmitri Payet to injury after only half an hour played.

Griezmann’s second, minutes after the restart, was cooly taken and underlined the Spanish club’s technical superiority.

While a late headed strike by Marseille’s Kostas Mitroglou — a 74th minute substitute — could have swung the momentum, it was not to be, and the ball rebounded harmlessly off the upright.

A final goal by Atleti skipper Gabi in the 89th minute sealed the victory for the Madrid side, who lifted the trophy for departing club legend Fernando Torres, who made a cameo appearance as a 90th minute substitute.

Early mistake sets tone

Marseille coach Rudi Garcia pointed to early mistakes as the cause of the loss of his side’s momentum.

“We had the best chance first up (through Germain) and then we made a mistake that cost us a goal.

“Against a team like Atletico you cannot afford to fall behind. We were out of luck when Mitroglou hit the post. A goal then would have got us back into the match. Atletico are a great team and we have no reason to be ashamed of this loss.”

Griezmann, who may well have put in his last performance in the red and white of Atletico after being heavily linked with a move to Spanish giants Barcelona in the summer, paid tribute to Marseille after the match.

Despite his emotional connection to the French side, however, he added that he had ice in his veins for his second goal, which he lifted over Olympique Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda.

“I’ve been working to experience such a moment for many years,” Griezmann said after the match. “I left home when I was 14 for that. We’ll celebrate. My family is here. Hats off to Marseille, a great team.

“I don’t know how to describe the finish (for the second goal) — perhaps cold-blooded.”

‘More than a trophy’

Atletico’s Argentine coach Diego Simeone, who was forced to watch from the stands following a sending off during the first leg of the semi-final against Arsenal, said that it had been a “challenging season.”

He added that winning Europe’s second-tier competition represented “more than a trophy — it’s a victory for everything we stand for, for hard work and industry.

“We’ve reinvented ourselves in this competition, and against Arsenal (in the semi-finals) we showed what we’re all about. We did so again tonight.”

He said that he would love his star player, who had the perfect final preparation for World Cup duties with the French national side with this win, to stay and continue to develop with the side.

However, perhaps as a nod to the inevitable, Simeone thanked Griezmann for his service. “If he goes then great, he’s given a lot to us over the years. Even without him we’ll continue to grow.”

Madrid’s win in Lyon brings the tally of European trophies won by Spanish sides to eight of the past nine — Manchester United’s triumph in the 2017 edition of this tournament is the only exception.

The dominance of Spanish team could be further underlined if Atletico’s neighbors, Real Madrid, triumph against Liverpool in the final of the Champions League in Kiev on the 26th of May.