Six talking points as Atletico Madrid beat Marseille to win Europa League
Antoine Griezmann’s two-goal salvo fired Atletico Madrid to Europa League glory against Marseille in Lyon.
The Frenchman secured the trophy for his side with a strike either side of half-time on what was a comfortable evening for Diego Simeone’s men as Gabi added a late third.
Griezmann’s first came after an error from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa saw the ball fall to the feet of Gabi whose pinpoint through ball was fired past Steve Mandanda.
His second was a clinically taken dinked finish over the keeper after Koke slid his striker through to double his tally.
Former Fulham striker Konstantinos Mitroglou had the best chance for Marseille, hitting the post after emerging from the bench in the last 10 minutes, before skipper Gabi put the icing on the cake for Atletico.
Here are six talking points from the match…
1. Griezmann’s parting gift?
While Barcelona were recovering from a slightly bizarre not-quite-post-season friendly in South Africa just a couple of hours earlier, Antoine Griezmann was showing why the Catalan giants are so keen on acquiring his services this summer.
When Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa horribly gave the ball away to Gabi from Steve Mandanda’s pass and Griezmann was slipped through on goal in the first half, there was never any doubt of the outcome.
He waited for Mandanda to go down before sliding the ball into the net to open the scoring.
His second was similarly clinical, latching on to Koke’s through ball to hold off the defender and dink delightfully to double his tally.
The Frenchman was the difference on the night and it’s easy to see why Barca want him leading their line.
He would leave an immeasurable hole at the Wanda Metropolitano.
2. Payet reduced to tears
Even the staunchest West Ham fan with the most stubborn of grudges would have struggled not to feel a little sorry for Dimitri Payet in the first half.
The former Hammers midfielder was forced off through injury before the break and was visibly distressed as he limped to the sidelines.
As the tears flowed down his face, he took his place on the bench to be consoled by teammates.
Payet left the East End in acrimonious circumstances after effectively forcing the club to sell him to the Ligue 1 side, where he has gone from strength to strength.
He was Marseille’s brightest spark in the early stages here, and with his substitution went their chances of glory.
3. Marseille blow Champions League opportunity
The chance to play in next season’s Champions League is now out of Marseille’s hands.
They would have guaranteed their place in Europe’s premier competition next term with victory here, but they must now rely on Lyon slipping up in the same stadium this weekend.
Lyon host Nice while Marseille entertain Amiens. The two sides are separated by just a point with Lyon currently occupying third spot, the final qualification place in Ligue 1.
Marseille must dust themselves down quickly if they harbour any hopes of rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite next term.
4. Where does Simeone go from here?
His Atletico Madrid side might not have the same panache as their neighbours in the Spanish capital or those further north in Barcelona, but Diego Simeone once again proved he is one of the world’s elite managers.
This was a vintage Atletico display; there was never any doubt Los Colchoneros would be lifting the trophy from the moment Griezmann fired them ahead.
Simeone’s name continues to be linked with other jobs, and with Maurizio Sarri set to pen fresh terms at Napoli, a move to Chelsea is likely to be mooted.
The pending sale of Antoine Griezmann could convince the Argentine it is finally time to leave for pastures new and to sign off with a European trophy having failed in two Champions League finals.
He watched from the stands here as he continued to serve a four-match ban for a touchline style that will always tow the line of overstepping the mark.
And that could set him apart from the rest in the Premier League.
5. An atmosphere to remember
Despite both sides having the same allocation of tickets, there were perhaps predictably thousands upon thousands more Marseille supporters inside the stadium.
And they created an incredible atmosphere from the first minute to the last, despite their side being outplayed on the night.
The supporters created a spectacular flare show prior to kick-off with several more going off throughout the 90 minutes.
Their support was unwavering, even if it did bring a few unsavoury scenes pre-match as supporters seemingly brawled among themselves leaving one man bloodied.
Atletico fans contributed to the atmosphere themselves, however, and it was the Spanish supporters crossing the border back to their homeland victorious.
6. Torres’ victorious swansong
What a moment for Fernando Torres.
The Spaniard emerged from the bench after 90 minutes to play stoppage time and be a part of Atletico’s victorious Europa League campaign.
Former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Torres is a bona-fide club legend at Atletico, scoring 127 goals across two spells with the club.
His introduction was met with huge cheers and he was all smiles as he played out the final stages before getting his hands on the trophy.
It remains to be seen where Torres’ storied career will take him next at the age of 34 and having lost more than a yard of pace, but this was a fitting Atletico farewell for the striker.
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