Griezmann scores twice as Atletico wins Europa League final

Two goals from Antoine Griezmann sealed the Europa League deal for Atletico. (Reuters)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Griezmann scores twice as Atletico wins Europa League final

  • Several of Marseille’s players were in tears after the final whistle, undone by a player who was turned down by several French clubs when he was a youth because of his diminutive stature

LYON, France: Striker Antoine Griezmann punished sloppy Marseille with two expertly-taken goals as Atletico Madrid won the Europa League for the third time with a resounding 3-0 victory in Wednesday’s final.
Marseille was going for a second European trophy, 25 years after winning the Champions League, but had no answer to Griezmann’s mobility and finishing. Captain Gabi capped off the victory with a fine finish in the last minute after being set up by Koke.
Several of Marseille’s players were in tears after the final whistle, undone by a player who was turned down by several French clubs when he was a youth because of his diminutive stature.
Griezmann pounced in the 21st minute, slotting coolly into the bottom left corner after being set up by midfielder Gabi’s first-time pass. Marseille’s woeful defending contributed, as midfielder Zambo Anguissa failed to control a needlessly casual pass out from goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and the loose ball bounced straight to Gabi.
The irrepressible Griezmann started and finished the move for his second, four minutes into the second half.
He athletically won a high ball in midfield and quickly swapped passes with Koke before gliding into the penalty area unchallenged and delicately clipping the ball over the onrushing Mandanda.
He celebrated both goals with an energetic celebratory dance from popular video game Fortnite, although he couldn’t do it as well the second time around as he was quickly mobbed by teammates.
Marseille began with urgency, but striker Valere Germain wasted a great chance to taken an early lead when shot over after being played clear through on goal by Dimitri Payet’s slick pass after three minutes. Center half Adil Rami shot just wide moments later as Marseille’s positive start initially upset Atletico’s rhythm in midfield.
The French side’s hopes faded after Payet went off injured in the 31st minute, with what appeared to a recurrence of a thigh injury. Payet was in tears when he went off and was consoled by teammates on the eve of France coach Didier Deschamps naming his World Cup squad.
Without Payet pulling the strings, Atletico was untroubled until striker Kostas Mitroglou’s towering header struck the post in the 81st.
Marseille lost its third straight European final after coming up short in the UEFA Cup final — as the tournament was formerly known — in 1999 and 2004.
Before the game, Marseille fans poured off the trams close to the stadium singing derogatory songs about Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, amid ongoing tensions between the clubs and their presidents.
They vastly outnumbered Atletico’s fans inside the Stade de Lyon, and made a nuisance of themselves throughout.
Moments after Griezmann’s opener, Marseille fans were given a warning over the public address system to stop letting off flares and firecrackers or the game would be stopped. They carried on anyway, and so did the game, with sections of the stadium cloaked in thick pyrotechnic smoke.
But nothing could disguise Atletico’s vast superiority, as it added to the Europa League trophies from 2010 and 2012. It also lost Champions League finals to Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016 and the gulf in experience was evident.
The comfortable lead allowed Atletico to take off Griezmann in the final moments and give veteran forward Fernando Torres a send-off, as he came on to a huge ovation from the red-and-white horde of Atletico fans.
The 34-year-old Torres, who is leaving Atletico at the end of the season, finally won a trophy with his beloved club. He raised the trophy aloft with his right hand in front of adoring fans who nicknamed him “The Kid” when he started his career in 2000.
But the night really belonged to Griezmann, whose stock will rise even further.
Atletico’s next challenge will be trying to stop a bigger club signing Griezmann, amid ongoing interest from Barcelona.
Marseille, meanwhile, has one game left in the French league to try and secure a place in the Champions League next season.


Warriors down Rockets, force Game 7 in NBA West finals

Updated 27 May 2018
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Warriors down Rockets, force Game 7 in NBA West finals

OAKLAND, California: Klay Thompson hit nine 3-pointers and scored 35 points, the Warriors held James Harden down in the second half, and Golden State rallied from an early 17-point deficit to stave off elimination with a 115-86 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night to force a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference finals.
Stephen Curry added 29 points and five 3s on a night Harden dazzled for long stretches with 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds while backcourt mate Chris Paul sat out sidelined by a strained right hamstring.
Kevin Durant struggled with his stroke at 6 for 17 but still scored 23 points as the defending champions kept their repeat quest alive by thoroughly outplaying Houston in the second half. The Warriors outscored the Rockets 55-20 in the second half before both coaches subbed their key players with 4:28 left.
A dynamic, star-studded series projected to be as captivating and compelling as the actual NBA Finals is going the distance. Game 7 is Monday night back in Houston.
Golden State stymied Harden on consecutive possessions early in the fourth with smothering defense led by Nick Young and several helpers, then Thompson hit a 3-pointer from the left wing at 9:40 for an 89-77 lead. And roaring Oracle Arena went crazy with hopes of even more home games to come if Golden State can get to a fourth straight finals.
Thompson came through with his best performance of these playoffs with the season on the line, just as he did in a 2016 Game 6 of the Western Conference finals at Oklahoma City when he went off for 41 points against Durant and the Thunder to force Game 7.
He was a combined 20 of 32 from 3-point range in those two games.
“I don’t want to go home,” Thompson said. “We worked too hard this season to go home. And this is what we play for.”
The Warriors used another of their signature third quarters to take an 84-77 advantage going into the final 12 minutes, then maintained that dominant level this time down the stretch, unlike their last home game at roaring Oracle Arena when they blew it in Game 4 on Tuesday.
Both teams let it fly from every corner of the court — Golden State hitting 16 3-pointers and Houston 15.
The Warriors outscored Houston 93-47 over the final three quarters.
Thompson’s baseline 3 in transition with 3:35 left in the third put the Warriors up 76-74, then Curry hit from way back the next time down over Gerald Green. Curry did it again moments later from deep.
The Warriors opened the third with an 11-0 burst to go ahead 62-61 on Curry’s 3 at 9:17, also getting a pair of 3s from Thompson and a dunk by Durant. Houston committed four quick turnovers.
Yellow-clad Oracle came alive, too.
Golden State did it playing again without forward Andre Iguodala, who missed his third straight game of the series with a bone bruise in his left knee sustained in Game 3.

TIP-INS
Rockets: The Rockets made 8 of 12 3-pointers in the first and topped the Warriors 19-4 in fast-break points. ... Houston committed 11 first-half turnovers, five early. ... Harden shot 4 for 12 on 3s.
Warriors: Golden State’s 33-point third quarter was its first 30-point period since the third in Game 4. ... The Warriors shot 4 for 18 in the first half from long range. ... Golden State is 4-1 when facing elimination dating to the 2015 championship. ... The Warriors are 16-8 all-time in Game 6 of postseason series. ... Second-year G Patrick McCaw, who had been out since a scary back injury at Sacramento on March 31 when undercut by Vince Carter, received a roaring ovation when he entered the game late. He quickly grabbed a rebound. ... Kerr listed Iguodala as day to day because there’s still pain in the knee when running.

PAUL’S PRESENCE
Paul is receiving treatment “around the clock,” according to coach Mike D’Antoni.
Having him on hand still meant so much.
“He’s devastated. He has to be. We’re all devastated for him. At the same time, we’ll rally and do what’s right,” D’Antoni said. “He’s so integral in what we do and the spirit of the team. And him being here is a big deal, and him being on the bench is a big deal. He’ll will us through, if he can.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr felt terribly for Paul — and others who have gone down.
“More than anything, I feel bad for Chris. The guy is a phenomenal player and competitor, and pretty much willed his team the last two games. He’s just been haunted by these types of injuries in his career, and it’s a shame,” Kerr said.
“I hate when anybody gets hurt. I hate when Andre got hurt. I hate to see Kevin Love last night, Kyrie (Irving). These guys train so hard and they’re here and they’re competing, and you want everybody to be healthy, but just the reality is it usually doesn’t work out that way. So you’ve just got to keep playing with whoever’s there and keep going.”