Europa League Final 2012: Falcao Guides Atleti To Win

Atletico Madrid have won the Europa League with a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in Bucharest. Falcao has won the competition and the Golden Boot for the second consecutive season.

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On Radamel Falcao, King Of The Europa League

Radamel Falcao has once again proven to be far too good to be playing in the Europa League.

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Atletico Madrid Vs. Athletic Bilbao, 2012 Europa League Final: Final Score 3-0, Atleti Win Europa League

Atletico Madrid are Europa League champions! Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that Radamel Falcao is Europa League champion, because wherever he goes, the trophy follows. Over the past two years, the aggregate score is Falcao three, rest of planet one, and his two goals in Bucharest saw Atleti dispatch Athletic Bilbao without too many problems.

Athletic struggled early and Falcao made them pay, peeling away from his man before sending in a peach of a curler straight into the top corner, with Gorka Iraizoz screened by his own left back. The deficit seemed to spur Marcelo Bielsa's side into something approaching life, and they managed to put together some neat - if ultimately fruitless - passing moves.

And then a defensive error combined with some lethal skill from Falcao doubled Atleti's advantage. Fernando Amorebienta gave the ball away at the top of his penalty area and Arda Turan did well to burst down the left flank then send in a low cross. It wasn't aimed at Falcao, but the striker pounced regardless, leaning to retrieve the ball, using a clever flick to earn himself some space and then slamming home for his brace.

At that point, the match was probably over. Athletic didn't look much better in the second half than they did in the first, although they did have a great chance to get back into the match when Markel Susaeta found himself with the ball and a clear sight of goal six yards out. His shot, however, was well saved by Thibaut Courtois, and Falcao nearly managed to make it three when he rattled Iraizoz's post just seconds later.

With six minutes to go, Atletico sealed the deal. Falcao wasn't actually involved with this one - it was all Diego, who ran through the Athletic defence before planting a lovely shot straight into the far corner to make it 3-0. There would be no late fightback, and Atleti could celebrate a second Europa League title in three years.

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Atletico Madrid Vs. Athletic Bilbao, 2012 Europa League Final: Halftime Score 2-0 Atleti

We're halfway through the Europa League final in Bucharest, and it looks as though Atletico Madrid are going to take home the prize at Athletic Bilbao's expense. The difference maker has been Radamel Falcao. The former Porto man, who notched the winner in last year's final against Braga, has struck twice here, and his team are 2-0 up and not looking particularly inclined to let Athletic back into the match.

Atletico Madrid dominated the early stages, with Athletic incredibly wasteful in possession and surprisingly porous in defence. Atleti right winger Adrian was looking particularly dangerous, and he nearly made the most of a promising spell by Jon Aurtenetxe inside out before a swarm of green shirts got back and relieved him of possession. However, that only delayed the inevitable, and on the next attack Falcao struck.

It was not a position you'd expect anybody but one of the world's best centre forwards to turn into an unstoppable goal. Unfortunately for Athletic, that's exactly what Falcao is. Checked away from his planned run towards Gorka Iraizoz's goal, he merely danced back a step and sent a lovely curling drive straight into the top corner from twelve yards. Atleti were 1-0 up, six minutes in.

Fortunately, as far as competitiveness is concerned, the goal woke up Athletic and they began to pose real problems to their opponents' defence. Fernando Llorente was furious not to have received a penalty when he was pulled back while going for a header, and Thibaut Courtois was called into action on a long-range effort from Iker Munian, which the young Belgian barely managed to parry away.

That Athletic pressure didn't mean much though, because hey Falcao. It looked like the threat was over after an Atletico free kick ended up at Fernando Amorebienta's feet, but he failed to clear and suddenly the road was clear for Arda Turan to fizz in a cross. It wasn't the best of deliveries, but it was good enough for the Colombian, who reeled it in, spun away from his man, and rifled past Iraizoz for his second. Right now, there's just no stopping him.

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Athletic Bilbao Vs. Atletico Madrid, 2012 UEFA Europa League Final: Lineups

The starting lineups for the 2012 Europa League final have been announced, and both Diego Simeone and Marcelo Bielsa have selected their normal teams. Athletic Bilbao central defender Fernando Amorebieta has been injured recently, but was declared fit to start. Atletico Madrid are without suspended midfielder Tiago, and have picked Gabi and Mario Suarez in his place. They also return a recently injured defender of their own in Diego Godin to the lineup.

Atletico Madrid starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Thibaut Courtois; Filipe Luis, Diego Godin, Joao Miranda, Juanfran; Gabi, Mario Suarez; Arda Turan, Diego, Adrian Lopes; Radamel Falcao

Athletic Club Bilbao starting lineup (4-3-3): Gorka Iraizoz; Jon Aurtenetxe, Fernando Amorebieta, Javi Martinez, Andoni Iraola; Oscar de Marcos, Ander Iturraspe. Ander Herrera; Iker Muniain, Fernando Llorente, Markel Susaeta

Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET from the National Arena in Bucharest, Romania. You can catch the game on GolTV in the U.S., Euroworld Sport in Canada and Channel 5 in the U.K..

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