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.


Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

Updated 31 min 25 sec ago
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Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

  • Virgil van Dijk: He (Mohamed Salah) is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals.”
  • Van Dijk: “To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.”

LIVERPOOL: As Mohamed Salah prepares for a career-defining period, Virgil van Dijk is confident his Liverpool teammate’s star will only shine brighter on football’s biggest stages.
The Liverpool frontman will face-off with Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid tonight in the Champions League final before heading off to a debut World Cup with Egypt.
And having witnessed an incredible season that has brought 44 goals — a record 32 in the Premier League ­— for the Egyptian star, Reds defender van Dijk says he has the all-round ability to strike fear into the reigning European champions and international sides.
“He is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals,” said the Dutchman of the 25-year-old Salah. “It’s complete for him.
“He’s like everyone in our squad, laidback, calm, no big personalities and egos. We work hard for each other and just want to be better.
“I think he can definitely be the best in Europe, but there are two other players who are pretty good at the moment as well (in Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). I hope for Mo it happens because he deserves it. He is that kind of player to light up a World Cup as well.”
While all eyes will be on Salah and Ronaldo as potential match-winners in Kiev, van Dijk, 26, will have a major role on the defensive front.
The game will offer the center-back the chance to prove he was worth the £75 million ($100 million) it cost to sign him from Southampton in January.
“Any player who arrived at this club, they want to play in these games, they want to be under this kind of pressure, they want to get trophies,” he said.
“I don’t think I have been bought to win the Champions League final. I have been bought to hopefully get the best out of myself and the best out of the team with the help of everyone else.
“To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.
“Against Manchester City in the away game (of the quarter final) I was a little bit too calm in the beginning, for example. That is something I have to learn as well. To be in the final right now, it has been a crazy journey.”
Watching last season’s final between Real and Juventus, van Dijk realized just how much he wanted to be a part of the competition — and why Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were the club for him, despite interest from City.
“I never really go to big games to watch as a fan, but I was in Cardiff,” he recalled. “The sponsors (Sony) hooked us up with two fantastic seats and it was two hours from where I used to live, so we thought, ‘let’s go.’
“From the moment I got there a lot of people in hospitality were Liverpool fans and they were saying, ‘join, please join.’