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.


Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

Updated 18 January 2019
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Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

  • Sharapova dumps out defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.
  • Rafa and Roger brush aside young guns in straight sets victories.

LONDON: It is coming up to the end of the first week of the Australian Open, so we thought we would take a look and see how some of the big names fared on day five of the year’s first Grand Slam.

MARIA SHARAPOVA

Maria Sharapova warned she is in the sort of form to win the Australian Open after she dumped Carolina Wozniacki out with an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. It was the Russian’s best win since her return from a drugs ban and she looked like a winner-in-waiting.
“I thought the level was quite high. I knew I’d get a tough match — she (Wozniacki) is the defending champion,” the five-time Slam champion said.
“I haven’t played many matches in the last year against top players so it was really rewarding to win that last set. These are the kinds of matches I train for.”



ROGER FEDERER

Ageless Roger Federer marked his 100th Rod Laver Arena match Friday by storming past Taylor Fritz, then looked forward to a “high quality” last-16 clash against another young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion continued his quest for a record seventh Australian Open title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 third-round demolition of 21-year-old American Fritz in just 88 minutes of flawless tennis.
Next up is 14th seed Tsitsipas. And the 37-year-old Federer is looking forward to taking on the fiery young Greek, who is 17 years his junior.
Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” Federer said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam.”



RAFAEL NADAL

Rafael Nadal declared “everything is a step forward” after brutally brushing aside Alex de Minaur at the Australian Open Friday in just the Spaniard’s third match since the US Open.
The world No. 2 was in ominous form as he continued his quest for an 18th Grand Slam by punishing the Australian teenager in a third-round tennis masterclass 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“In general terms, everything is a step forward. So that’s positive news for me,” said the man who won the Aussie Open in 2009.
“I’m very happy for the victory against someone who had won seven matches in a row, winning a tournament.”
On his fitness Nadal added: “Probably 10 years ago it would have been difficult not playing much tennis in the build-up but now I have been in this situation many times with the injuries I have had.
“I have to deal with the ups and downs of my body but I try to enjoy any moment on the court.”



MARIN CILIC

The former US Open champions was made to work for his place in the last 16 as he struggled to beat Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Verdasco showed glimpses of the form that once made him a top-10 player and had a match point, one he frittered away with a double fault.
I was just slightly luckier in those crucial moments,” the sixth-seeded Cilic said.
“(It is) unbelievable. Emotions were up and down,” Cilic said.
“When I was down two sets to none, it was a big hill to climb.”
It’s the seventh time in Cilic’s career that he has emerged to win a match after dropping the opening two sets.



ANGELIQUE KERBER

Second seed Kerber received a gift ride into the Australian Open fourth round for her 31st birthday when she overpowered local wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.
The Wimbledon champion swept world No. 240 Birrell aside in just 58 minutes to set up a last-16 clash with unseeded American Danielle Collins.
Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, said she was used to celebrating her birthday on the road at the season-opening Grand Slam.
“I think it’s the 12th time in a row,” she said. “I’m getting older but I have the best time here and I’ll never forget my birthdays here in Australia.”
Kerber reached the semifinals last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.