Griezmann Fires Atletico Madrid To Europa League Title

Antoine Griezmann was the hero for Atletico Madrid as the French striker scored twice in their 3-0 win over Marseille in Wednesday’s Europa League final in Lyon, allowing his club to win the trophy for the third time in nine seasons.

It is Griezmann’s first major title as an Atletico player, and a fitting way to bow out if he leaves at the season’s end, with Barcelona tipped as his next destination.

Griezmann — brought up in Macon, just 70 kilometres from Lyon — scored once in each half, his lethal finishes coming either side of Marseille losing Dimitri Payet to injury, the French team’s captain coming off in tears.

Griezmann now has 29 goals for the season, although it was Gabi’s late strike that put the seal on the victory.

“This is a reward for me after I left home aged 14, for all the work I have put in, the suffering,” Griezmann, who has spent his whole career in Spain but had only previously won one Spanish Super Cup, told beIN Sports.

“There has been joy and sadness, but I am so happy and I hope to be able to live moments like this again.”

Marseille had been desperate to win the second European trophy in their history, on French soil, 25 years after beating AC Milan in the inaugural Champions League final.

But it was a flat night for their huge support, who threatened to ruin the occasion by lighting flares and setting off firecrackers at one end of the stadium, with some even being thrown onto the pitch towards the end.

The game carried on regardless, with Rudi Garcia’s side well beaten by Diego Simeone’s Atletico.

“We let our chance go in the first half. Firstly, we had the best chance to go ahead, and secondly an error from us meant we fell behind,” said Garcia.

“The scoreline is harsh but the better team won.”

Atletico’s triumph comes after agonising defeats to Real Madrid in the Champions League finals of 2014 and 2016. They had previously won the Europa League in 2010 and again in 2012, the latter coming just six months after Simeone’s appointment.

Simeone served a touchline ban here, meaning assistant German ‘Mono’ Burgos nominally took charge, but that did not perturb them on the field.

Having fallen into this competition by virtue of a group-stage exit from the Champions League, Atletico were the favourites against a Marseille side whose continental campaign had begun in the third qualifying round last July.

– Marseille’s regrets –

Just being in this final, their 19th European game of the season, was an achievement for Garcia’s team. But they will look back on the evening with regrets.

After all, they had started well and had a great chance to open the scoring inside four minutes, Valere Germain shooting over after being slipped in by Payet.

It was the kind of chance that does not come up often against an Atletico side who had kept 33 clean sheets in all competitions this season before this game.

Marseille were then punished for sloppy defending as they fell behind in the 21st minute.

Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda opted to play a pass to Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, deep in midfield, rather than clear long. The Cameroonian’s attempt at a touch was awful, and Gabi pounced on the loose ball, sending Griezmann through to finish.

That subdued the Marseille fans, and things got worse for them when Payet, their captain and most influential player who had been struggling with a hamstring problem ahead of the game, came off crying just after the half-hour mark.

OM needed to take the game to Atletico in the second half, but instead they conceded again just four minutes after the restart.

It was a glorious goal, Griezmann finding Koke and then latching onto the return ball as he stormed into the box before lifting a deft finish over Mandanda and in.

Substitute Kostas Mitroglou nearly set up a grandstand finale, his header coming off Jan Oblak’s post, before Gabi’s low drive in the 89th minute made it 3-0.

(AFP)

Griezmann, Atletico Target European Glory Against Marseille

Antoine Griezmann is hoping to get his hands on a first major trophy with Atletico Madrid as the Spanish club prepare to take on Marseille in Wednesday’s Europa League final.

Griezmann has only won the Spanish Super Cup since joining Diego Simeone’s side four years ago, featuring in the team that lost on penalties to Real Madrid in the Champions League final in 2016.

Atletico’s build-up to this match has been overshadowed to some extent by constant speculation about his future, with the France striker being tipped to join Barcelona after the World Cup.

But his Atletico team-mates are confident the 27-year-old is fully focused on leading his side to what would be their third Europa League title since the start of the decade. He will spearhead the attack alongside Diego Costa.

“We have been speaking about him all year. Physically he is in good shape and for him it is important to win a title because he needs it, and that is the only thing that matters to him,” said veteran midfielder Gabi.

“I hope it is not his last final because we need him and he knows that we want him to stay.”

This game is a sort of homecoming for Griezmann, who has spent his whole club career in Spain but grew up in Macon, less than an hour’s drive from Lyon.

The memories of their agonising defeats to Real in the Champions League finals of 2014 and 2016 remain fresh for Simeone and his side.

However, Simeone has worked wonders with Atletico since being appointed in late 2011 and sealing Europa League victory six months later.

The Spanish side have greater collective experience of European finals, but Simeone was not keen to draw too many comparisons with what has come before.

“It is never good to make comparisons. The Champions League is one thing and the Europa League another,” said Simeone, who will serve a touchline ban on Wednesday after being sent to the stands against Arsenal in the semi-finals.

“Experience is an important factor although it won’t completely influence the game,” he added.

– Will home advantage count? –
Having dropped into this competition following a surprise group-stage exit from the Champions League, Atletico are favourites, but Marseille are motivated by the prospect of playing on home soil.

They are also driven by the desire to win a second European trophy, just as the club marks 25 years since beating AC Milan in the 1993 Champions League final.

“I think the expectation in Marseille and across the country is quite extraordinary and our motivation comes from that,” said Dimitri Payet, who is confident of beng fully fit after a minor muscle injury.

Marseille, who have lost three other European finals, have come all the way from the qualifying rounds in this season’s Europa League, starting out last July.

“We know that Atletico have the experience. They came out of the Champions League while we came through the Europa League qualifiers,” said coach Rudi Garcia.

“But we have experienced players too, players who have played in and won European finals, the Champions League in the case of Luiz Gustavo. We want to enjoy the moment, let our hair down.”

Garcia is confident of having a full squad at his disposal, despite concerns over the fitness of centre-back Rolando, Bouna Sarr and striker Kostas Mitroglou.

Meanwhile, authorities in Lyon are hoping the match, which will kick off at 8:45pm (1845 GMT), will not be marred by violence.

Only around 11,500 Marseille fans will officially be in attendance in a crowd of close to 60,000 and those without tickets have been urged not to travel amid fears of trouble between them and fans of Lyon.

A big rivalry has developed in recent years between the clubs, and there will be 1,250 police officers deployed in the city and around the stadium.

AFP

Atletico’s Griezmann Aims To Frustrate Barcelona’s Title Charge

Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann  goes up against Barcelona on Sunday, looking to frustrate the title charge of a club he may be signing for in the summer.

Barca were forced last month to deny claims they had agreed a deal to sign the Frenchman, whose fantastic display of form since the turn of the year now stands as the principal threat to them toasting a 25th La Liga triumph.

In January, the difference between both teams was 11 points at the top of the table but a win this weekend, will cut the gap to just two points.

Barca’s slip at Las Palmas on Thursday, a day after Atletico claimed their eighth consecutive victory over Leganes, means the balance has tipped back towards the capital.

But, just as Griezmann has been the driving force behind their resurgence, with an outstanding 12 goals in nine games, the 26-year-old will be key again if Atletico are to inflict Barca’s first defeat this season.

He has never scored at the Camp Nou, a drought that extends to nine outings, but back-to-back hat-tricks, the second a quadruple, against Sevilla and Leganes this week will certainly have pricked the Catalans’ attention.

“He has played at this level in other seasons,” Simeone said after Wednesday´s win. “He is an extraordinary player — he already showed this in the past.”

It is no coincidence Griezmann’s surge has quickened since the arrival of Diego Costa, whose willingness to engage defenders in the grittier side of the game has allowed his partner the freedom to flourish.

But while Costa appears the perfect foil, Griezmann might glance across at his opponents on Sunday and wonder where and how he would fit in.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez admittedly have 61 years of age between them but also 59 goals this term. Neither look ready to make way for a younger model.

The 160 million-euro Philippe Coutinho, meanwhile, scored his first in the league against Girona last weekend while even the disorientated Ousmane Dembele is showing signs he is beginning to settle.

Given a draw would surely be enough to satisfy Barcelona, it would be a brave move from their coach Ernesto Valverde to field the full “Fabulous Four” this weekend.

They also have one less day than their opponents to recover.

“The match against Atletico comes fast and will be important for both teams,” Valverde said after the 1-1 draw against Las Palmas.

“But we are the leaders and we are looking forward to continuing being first.”

Real Madrid´s own title aspirations are long gone, with their focus firmly shifted to the Champions League and next week´s second-leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain.

Domestic fixtures have become something similar to European trials, with the likes of Gareth Bale, Marcos Asensio and Isco all missing the chance to push their case in Tuesday´s surprise defeat at Espanyol.

Zinedine Zidane’s treatment of Bale in particular, left out earlier this month against Leganes and then deployed as a centre-forward in midweek, hardly seems to have smoothed the way for a return to form.

Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to be restored to the starting line-up at home to Getafe on Saturday. Marcelo is back in training but Luka Modric (thigh) and Toni Kroos (knee) are further away.

Real sit one point ahead of fourth-placed Valencia, who host Real Betis on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

UCL: Atletico Dump Barcelona Out As Bayern Go Through

Antoine Griezmann was on the scoresheet twice, as Atletico Madrid stunned defending champions, Barcelona, 2-0 in their quarter-final clash on Wednesday to end their dream of being the first club to successfully defend the trophy.

Luis Enrique’s men travelled to the Calderon with a narrow 2-1 win from the first leg, but could not match Atletico’s intensity and conceded through a Griezmann header in the first half before the Frenchman scored a penalty in the last ten minutes to put the game beyond Barca’s reach.

The other round of eight clash between Bayern Munich and Benfica ended 2-2 in Portugal, with Pep Guardiola’s men qualifying 3-2 on aggregate.

Atletico and Bayern will now join Manchester City and Real Madrid in Friday’s draw for the semi-final.