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Bilbao beaten to Europa crown
Published : 09 May 2012 22:16:54
Radamel Falcao justified his golden boot billing by firing Atletico Madrid to a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League final.
The Colombia striker produced two moments of magic in the first half before Diego's late goal put the seal on Atletico's second title in three years. Diego Simeone's side were vastly superior in their eagerly awaited all-Spanish final against Bilbao as Marcelo Bielsa's men froze on the big occasion.
Falcao's 11th and 12th goals of the tournament not only earned him the top scorer prize ahead of Schalke's Klaas Jan Huntelaar but took his all-time record in the competition to 29 in 29 games.
Atletico were ahead in the seventh minute. Falcao bided his time on the ball in the right of the penalty area, worked a yard of space and curled a magnificent left-footed effort inside the far post.
He doubled Atletico's lead in the 34th minute. Fernando Amorebieta dwelt terribly on the ball and lost possession on the edge of the box and, from Arda's Turan's cutback, Falcao brilliantly turned Jon Aurtenetxe and lashed home. He then curled a right-foot effort high over the bar as half-time brought welcome respite for Bilbao.
Bielsa made a double-change at half-time, Ibai Gomez and Inigo Perez replacing Iturraspe and Aurtenetxe and his side started more brightly, Andoni Iraola playing in Muniain whose cross was cleared behind by Joao Miranda. Javi Martinez headed Ibai's corner over.
Diego fired just wide of Gorka Iraizoz's near post and a deflection robbed Gabi Fernandez's shot of its pace and Adrian Lopez curled wide before Amorebieta was booked for a nasty challenge on Falcao.
Markel Susaeta's fierce left-foot drive deflected wide off Miranda and at the other end, Arda wasted some neat interplay with an overly audacious chip which Iraizoz easily fielded.
It was Diego who put the game to bed. The Brazilian took on Toquero and Amorebieta before firing low across Iraizoz.
As Atletico celebrated, their opponents' despair was summed up by the sight of Iker Muniain sprawled full-length on the ground in tears.