at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Bucharest - Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao scored two superb goals and Diego added a late third to seal a commanding 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the all-Spanish Europa League final on Wednesday.
Colombian Falcao, who tormented the Bilbao defence all night, was top scorer in the competition with 12 goals after his first half double. He also hit the post after the break as Atletico won the trophy for the second time in three seasons.
Diego, who left VfL Wolfsburg last season after falling out with coach Felix Magath, added the third in the 83rd minute.
Last season, Falcao scored the winner for Porto in the final against Braga and finished with a tally of 17 goals.
“I am grateful for this moment that few players have the chance to experience, grateful to all the team, my colleagues, the coaching staff,” Falcao told Spanish TV.
Wednesday's contest was a duel between two Argentine coaches, Atletico's Diego Simeone and Bilbao's Marcelo Bielsa. Simeone played under Bielsa for several years with Argentina.
Bilbao started nervously, twice giving away possession at the back, and had barely got into the match when Atletico went ahead.
Adrian Lopez sent Falcao away down the right, the Colombian ran into the area, checked, made space for his shot and curled the ball into the top corner on the turn.
Fernando Llorente directed a header and then a volley wide of goal from close range as Athletic finally sprang into action before Iker Munain had a low shot parried by Thibaut Courtois.
But Atletico, always looking more ruthless, went further ahead when Bilbao lost possession on the edge of the area, and Arda Turdan found Falcao who brilliantly twisted past his marker to fire the second into the roof of the net.
Bilbao improved greatly after the break and made an immediate impact as Iker Munian burst down the right and delivered a low cross which Miranda did well to put behind for a corner.
Athletic's Ibai Gomez fired over the bar and fellow halftime substitute Inigo Perez caused Courtouis a fright with a dipping 35-metre free kick, though they also had a let off when Atletico forward Lopez fired wide after working a good shooting chance.
Oscar de Marcos wasted another chance for Bilbao then Markel Susaeta had a shot deflected agonisingly wide but their hopes of a fightback ended with Diego's late strike.
“It was a tough match, an extraordinary match, almost perfect,” Diego told Spanish TV.
“We played it so that it was an easy finish but we were facing the magnificent team that is Athletic Bilbao.” - Reuters