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Thursday, May 17, 2018, 09:51
Griezmann fires Atletico to Europa League triumph with 2 goals
By Associated Press
Thursday, May 17, 2018, 09:51 By Associated Press

Atletico players and head coach Diego Simeone (far right in black) celebrate with the trophy after winning the Europa League Final soccer match between Marseille and Atletico Madrid at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, May 16, 2018. (FRANCOIS MORI / AP)

LYON — 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.

ALSO READ: Solid defense makes Atletico favorites for Europa League win

"It's more than about winning the Europa League tonight, it's about more than a trophy," Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said. "It represents the value of hard work, a steady hand and consistency, values to be successful in life. Keeping at it, keep working hard and it will bear fruit."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."

Spain's King Felipe (rear, second right, with red tie) congratulates Atletico's Antoine Griezmann (front, third right) after the team won the Europa League Final soccer match between Marseille and Atletico Madrid at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, May 16, 2018. (FRANCOIS MORI / AP)

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.

"Griezmann took full advantage," Marseille coach Rudi Garcia said. "I think the blame can be shared, it's 50-50."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.

Atletico's Antoine Griezmann's celebrates his side opening goal during the Europa League Final soccer match between Marseille and Atletico Madrid at the Stade de Lyon outside Lyon, France, May 16, 2018. (CHRISTOPHE ENA / AP)

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.

"We missed our chance in the first half," Garcia said. "You can't fall behind against a team like Atletico. In the second half they raised their level and the best team won."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.

READ MORE: After 25 years, Marseille looking to win in Europe again

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.

Marseille's Dimitri Payet walks off the pitch after sustaining an injury during the Europa League Final soccer match between Marseille and Atletico Madrid at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, May 16, 2018. (FRANCOIS MORI / AP)

"This shows the value of persistence," Simeone said. "We lost two Champions League finals, one in the last minute and one on penalties."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.

"He leaves a legacy of never surrendering, never lowering his guard," Simeone said. "He never gave up when I left him out."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.

"I don't think now is the time to talk about my future. I want to enjoy the present," Griezmann said. "I want to enjoy this with the fans."

Marseille's Konstantinos Mitroglou (left)  heads the ball during the Europa League Final soccer match between Marseille and Atletico Madrid at the Stade de Lyon outside Lyon, France, May 16, 2018. (CHRISTOPHE ENA / AP)

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