Atletico Madrid wins inaugural Europa League trophy - breaks Fulham hearts
Atletico Madrid 2 – 1 Fulham (AET) (FT 1-1)
Atletico Madrid won the inaugural Europa League on Thursday night with a class display, but a brave resistance from Fulham. With the teams deadlocked at full time , the game looked to be on course to go to penalties, as 25 minutes of extra time could not separate the teams either. Then Diego Forlan struck again for the second time in the match to win the game for Atletico and break Fulham hearts.
It always had been a fairytale for the South London side. No one had ever realistically expected them to get this far, never mind lift a European trophy for the first time in their history. And by the final whistle, the fairytale was over, it was Atletico Madrid that would be etched as the first name on the Europa League Trophy.
Diego Forlan had open the scoring for the Spanish side on 32 minutes, and it was a defensive error that led to the goal. First Paul Konchesky gave away possession and Antonio Reyes started a move which Fulham failed to close down, a close range finish from Forlan put Atletico 1-0 ahead. Fulham didn’t lie down for long, and minutes later Zamora broke through the Atletico rearguard. Atletico failed to clear the danger and Zoltan Gera set up a close range shot for Simon Davies who volleyed into Atletico’s net for the equaliser.
At half time the scores remained 1-1, and a further 45 minutes of all out attack by Atletico saw them dominating possession and exuding their class, yet never making the all important breakthrough. Fulham defended bravely but rarely threatened on the counter attack, and as the game went on began to show signs of fatigue.
So extra time it was to be, and followed the same pattern for the first half and 10 minutes into the second. Just for 5 minutes longer, it would have been a penalty shoot-out, but then Agüero picked up the ball on the left. A mazy little move and a thread ball through to Forlán who found himself unmarked and in space in the centre of the penalty box. A cheeky flick, a slight deflection, Schwarzer was beaten and the game was won for Atletico. The dream over for Fulham, and the magnificent manager Roy Hodgson.
Atletico lifted the trophy, and it was well deserved when all was said and done. For there was no doubt they were the better team.
"It doesn't matter how much comfort I try to find, there is not a lot to be found. It is difficult for me to find any real joy and enthusiasm - and you would be surprised if my attitude was anything else in among the bitter disappointment and great sadness at seeing another good performance go unrewarded."
De Gea; Ujfalusi, Perea, Dominguez, Antonio Lopez, Reyes, (Salvio 78), Paulo Assuncao, Raul Garcia, Simao (Jurado 68), Forlan, Aguero.
Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Duff (Nevland 84), Etuhu, Murphy, Davies, Gera, Zamora, (Dempsey 55).
Yellow Card: Atletico Madrid
Yellow Card: Fulham
Man of the match: Diego Forlan.
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy).