LYON, France (AP) 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.
”This is a reward for me after I left home aged 14, for all the work I have put in, the suffering,” Griezmann said. ”There has been joy and sadness, but I am so happy and I hope to be able to live moments like this again.”
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’s injury obviously hurt us. He’s one of leaders, but we had to make do with it,” Marseille defender Bouna Sarr said. ”We conceded against the run of play and couldn’t get back into the game.”
Payet was in tears when he went off, 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.
Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire
Source: Fox Sports