XtraTime Web Desk: Antoine Griezmann steals the show in Lyon as Atletico de Madrid wins the Europa League 2017/18 with a clinical performance against Marseille in the final by 3-0.
Another success for Diego Simeone and Atlético Madrid, and another success for Spain in the Europa League. Eight of the last nine winners of European competitions have been Spanish – and Real Madrid could made it nine out of 10 in Kyiv next week. La Liga, meanwhile, has provided nine winners of the Europa League in the past 15 years and a third in nine seasons for Atlético, two of them under Simeone – although he was confined to the stands here after he was sent from the touchline during the first leg of the semi-final against Arsenal.
Antoine Griezmann’s double and captain Gabi’s late goal secured the victory for Atletico Madrid with Diego Simeone’s side deserved winners both on the night and of the competition.
A spirited Marseille team gave it their all, but Atletico were just too streetwise and also just too good. Both of Griezmann’s goals were superbly finished after naive mistakes from the French side, while Gabi’s late clincher came just after substitute Clinton Njie had butchered his side’s last chance to make a game of it.
Cheered on by what seemed to be about 80 percent of the 59,000 in the crowd at the Stade de Lyon, Marseille made by far the better start — only for a crucial error on 20 minutes from young midfielder Andre Zambo Anguissa to be punished ruthlessly by Atletico’s No. 7.
The mood inside the stadium swung completely with the goal, and things fell even further Atletico’s way when Marseille’s best player, Dimitri Payet, was soon forced off injured. Rudi Garcia’s team had two-thirds of the possession in the first 45 minutes, but Atletico scored their only real chance.
Simione’s side scored their first opportunity of the second half, too, as just four minutes in Saul Niguez was quickest to a loose ball near the halfway line, and within seconds Koke released Griezmann to exquisitely lift the ball over Steve Mandanda and into the net. Marseille kept trying, but the breaks kept going Atletico’s way, and substitute Kostas Mitroglou’s deft late header beat Jan Oblak but not the post.
Gabi then wrapped up the scoring late on, and celebrated like a man who would prefer to forget he called this competition “s—” when his side dropped into it from the Champions League last December. However, they quickly refocused their campaign around this relatively achievable target. In truth the semi-finals against Arsenal provided a bigger challenge for Simeone’s side, who did not even need to be at their very best here.
Winning the Europa League was not how Atletico planned their 2017-18 season to end, but they proved Wednesday night that they were clearly the best team in this season’s competition, and a four-year wait for another major trophy is finally over.