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The student got the better of the master as Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid registered a clinical 3-0 win over Marcelo Bielsa's rookie Athletic Bilbao side in the final of the UEFA Europa League on Wednesday night in Bucharest. An exceptional technical footballing spectacle saw Radamel Falcao's first half brace give Madrid one hand on the trophy heading into the interval. An 85th minute goal from Brazilian Diego killed the tie, but not before a lion hearted performance from a young Bilbao side that was left in tears after their incredibly disappointing defeat. The result was Atletico's second Europa League triumph in three years, while Falcao finished as the competition's top scorer and picked up the winner's medal for the second straight year. It was a disappointing result for Bilbao, who are yet to win a title on the European stage.
Bilbao had the bulk of the possession right through the game, but it was Madrid who tested the Bilbao keeper Gorkha Iraizoz more. Despite Bilbao having 11 shots on goal, including some really good ones, Atletico's young Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois was only required to make three saves all night. Madrid meanwhile were special in front of goal with Falcao showing he was worth every bit of the â‚¬40 million Atletico paid for him at the start of the season.
The Colombian international scored two very special goals on the night, the first a gorgeous left-footed finish across the keeper after completely befuddling the Bilbao defence in the 7th minute, while his second was even more spectacular as he hoowinked a bunch of defenders in the box before curling his effort into the goal. Falcao was unlucky not to get his hat-trick hitting the woodwork with his right foot late in the game, when perhaps he probably should have gone across the keeper.
After a first half where they barely threatened, Bielsa made a couple of changes at half-time, bringing on Inigo Perez and Ibai for Aurtenetxe and Iturraspe. The changes had their desired affect with Bilbao looking much more threatening on the ball, but also as a result left them very open to counter attacks.
Iker Muniain, who has mesmerized fans with his play this season in the Europa League, was suddenly finding more time and space in the middle of the park and began to pull the strings for Bilbao. However, despite all their good build up play, Bilbao had a poor night in the final third, with a lot of efforts flashing either high or wide.
Courtois made a crucial save late in the game and moments later Diego sealed the win by beating three defenders in the box and once again firing home with his left-foot, giving the Bilbao keeper no chance.
Atletico Madrid were very much deserved winners on the night, and showed a touch of class at the end of the contest as they formed a guard of honour for this young Bilbao side as they went up to collect their runner-up medals. That failed to stop the flow of tears though as nearly every Bilbao player wept after the final whistle. The big challenge for Bilbao in the summer will be keeping this exceptional young squad together when the vultures from the bigger clubs come calling, while one can also be assured that Falcao's continued excellence this season is also likely to spark greater interest in the 26-year old Colombian
Atletico Madrid: Courtois, Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Filipe Luis, Mario Suarez, Gabi, Diego (Koke 90'), Adrian (Salvio 87'), Turan, Falcao.
Subs: Sergio Asenjo, Antonio Lopez, Salvio, Paulo Assuncao, Koke, Dominguez, Martin.
Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz, Iraola, Javi Martinez, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe (Ibai 46'), Ander Herrera (Tuquero 63'), Iturraspe (Perez 46'), De Marcos, Susaeta, Llorente, Muniain.
Subs: Raul, Toquero, San Jose, Gabilondo, Inigo Perez, Ekiza, Ibai.
Final Score: Atletico Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao (Falcao 7', 34', Diego 85')
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