KEIR RADNEDGE in LYON —-Favourites Atletico Madrid seized hold of the Europa League Cup yet again as two-goal Antoine Griezmann who laid waste to Olympique Marseille, the club he supported as a boy.
For Marseille, merely reaching the final  in the Stade Groupama in Lyon had been an achievement in itself after 18 games in the competition.

But Atletico, decisive 3-0 winners, were driven by mightier ambitions. They had won the UEFA Cup, the Europa League’s predecessor, in 2010 and 2012 but lost the Champions League Final to neighbours Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016. A further European fall at the last hurdle was not to be countenanced and duly they won the competition for the third time in eight years.

Atletico Madrid enjoy that winning feeling in Lyon

Griezmann’s double strike and a late third from captain Gabi delivered for Atletico, not brilliant but brilliantly efficient, a ninth win for a Spanish club in 15 seasons. Marseille, by contrast, ended up with a French record of four defeats in European finals but probably grateful at escaping so lightly.

The 27-year-old may have been playing his last big game for Atletico, having been linked persistently with a summer move to Barcelona. If so then he could hardly have wished for a finer farewell.

Wasted chances

It could all have been so different after Marseille kicked off with a rugby-style downfield punt for touch in seeking to impose themselves from the start. Twice they went close to savouring due reward but first Valere Germain shot nervously high when clear through then Adil Rami was inches wide of Jan Oblak’s left-hand post with a shot on the turn.

A Frenchman did manage the eventual breakthrough but that happened to be Griezmann for the Colchoneros. Marseille midfielder Andre Anguissa lost control of a short clearance from keeper Steve Mandanda and Gabi pounced to deliver the killing pass for Griezmann to strike his fifth goal in eight Europa League games.

He thus became the third Frenchman to score in the last three Europa League finals after Kevin Gameiro for  Sevilla against Liverpool in 2016 and Paul Pogba for Manchester United against Ajax last year.

Marseille suffered a further blow after 34 minutes when skipper Dmitri Payet, a fitness doubt after missing last weekend’s league match, aggravated his thigh problem in a midfield collision and had to be substituted by Maxime Lopez.

Payet, distraught, left the pitch in tears and was given a consoling hug by Griezmann, his French national team-mate.

Whatever Griezmann’s personal sympathies, they did not affect his own highly-polished performance. Four minutes into the second half he arrowed on to a through pass from Koke and clipped an angled shot deftly over the abandoned Mandanda for Atletico’s second goal.

Marseille fans, the vast majority in the crowd, did their best to encourage their team to find a path through the fast-covering Atletico defence and the smoke haze created by their own flares.

But Atletico were so much the better team against Marseille’s collection of Premier League cast-offs it was almost embarrassing though the French club did surprise even themselves by almost snatching a goal out of nowhere.

Ten minutes remained when newly-arrived substitute Kostas Mitroglou headed Morgan Sanson’s cross against Oblak’s right-hand post. The ball ricocheted across the goal-line but no-one could reach it for a decisive touch.

Atletico responded in the 88th minute by showing Marseille how it should be done. Diego Costa and Koke cleared the way for Gabi to climax a hard-working captain’s effort with a sign-off third goal.

All that remained was for Atletico to bring veteran favourite Fernando Torres onto the pitch as a late substitute to join the celebrations moments later.

The teams

Marseille: Mandanda – Sarr, Rami, Luis Gustavo, Amavi – Anguissa, Sanson – Thauvin, Payet (Lopez 32), Ocampos (Njie 54) – Germain (Mitroglou 73).

Atletico: Oblak – Vrsaljko (Juanfran 46), Gimenez, Godin, Lucas – Correa (Partey 86), Gabi, Saul Niguez, Koke – Griezmann (Torres 89), Diego Costa.

Referee: Kuipers (Hol).