Adios Atleti? Antoine Griezmann scores brace as Barcelona move nears | More sports | DW | 16.05.2018
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Adios Atleti? Antoine Griezmann scores brace as Barcelona move nears

Atletico Madrid's 3-0 victory over Olympique Marseille to win the 2018 Europa League was a special night for French striker Antoine Griezmann. His two goals may have been a parting gift to the Atleti faithful.

Antoine Griezmann couldn't believe his luck when he found himself alone in front of the Marseille goal with only his compatriot Steve Mandanda to beat.

Mandanda's suicidal pass had bounced off Andre Zambo Anguissa just outside the box and fallen to Atletico captain Gabi who immediately found Griezmann. The 27-year-old Frenchman needed no second invitation and stroked Atletico Madrid into the lead.

If his first goal was presented to him on a plate, his second of the evening owed much more to his own genius. Following a neat exchange of passes with Koke, Griezmann again found himself face-to-face with Mandanda but this time chipped the ball cheekily over the goalkeeper and into the net.

The goal took the French striker's tally to 29 goals and 15 assists in all competitions this season, form which has convinced Spanish champions Barcelona to pay his €100-million ($118 million) buy-out clause and bring him to Catalonia this summer, if reports in Spain are to be believed. 

Two chances, two goals, 2-0, and Atleti were well on their way to a third Europa League title in eight years - a perfect parting gift from Griezmann as he said "adios!" to Atleti."

Redemption

For Atletico, it was a measure of redemption on the European stage after Champions League final heartache against local rivals Real in 2014 and 2016.

And it was a particularly special night for the Griezmann, who grew up in the small town of Macon just 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Lyon, where the final was played. Considered talented but too petit by Olympique Lyonnais as a boy, the young Griezmann was instead spotted by scouts from Real Sociedad and embarked upon his football career south of the border in the Basque country.

But it is in Madrid that the baby-faced assassin has made his name, and this season has been no exception.

Although he was unable to prevent his team crashing out the Champions League (where Atleti were drawn in a group which also included Chelsea and future semifinalists Roma), Griezmann's brace in Lyon represented his seventh and eighth goals in European competition this season. No other Atletico player has been involved in more goals than him.

Europa League Final - Olympique de Marseille vs Atletico Madrid (Reuters/)

Antoine Griezmann strokes home Atletico's opener

Misery for Marseille

While Griezmann hails from just north of Lyon, the majority of the supporters inside the 59,000-capacity Parc OL were from just to the south. A mere 300 kilometers separate Lyon from Marseille on France's Mediterranean coast and Marseille's official allocation of 11,500 tickets was quickly sold out. Nevertheless, thousands more traveled with tickets in other sections of the ground or with no tickets at all.

Lyon is also home to Olympique Marseille's bitter French rivals Olympique Lyonnais and the rivalry between the two sets of fans prompted a police operation involving "exceptional numbers, twice as big as for a Euro 2016 match," according to Stephane Bouillon, the prefect of Lyon. Fortunately, there were no reports of any serious disorder.

"Jean Michel Aulas, we're going to win it at your ground!" the Marseille fans had been singing in the weeks building up to the final – a message to Lyon's club president, in whose stadium the final took place.

UEFA Europa League Finale Marseille gegen Atletico Madrid | Pyro (Reuters/V. Kessler)

Marseille supporters created a heated atmosphere in Lyon

Missed opportunity

And once the smoke from the flares ignited among the massed ranks of Marseille fans behind the goal had cleared, the Phoceens started well, striker Valere Germain putting a good chance over the bar having been played in by Dimitri Payet in the opening minutes.

And it was a miss that "OM" were quickly made to regret when Griezmann scored the opener shortly after – and things soon went from bad to worse when Payet was forced off with a suspected hamstring injury. Without their talisman, Marseille were unable to find away through a solid Atletico team, set up in a well-organized 4-4-2 formation by Argentinian coach Diego Simeone – who watched from the stands after being sent off in the semifinal first leg against Arsenal.

Substitute Kostas Mitroglou did strike the post with a glancing header late on, by which point Marseille were already 2-0 down.

As the clock ticked down, Gabi made it three, before Griezmann was substituted to rapturous applause from the 10,000 travelling Spaniards.

From Macon near Lyon, to San Sebastian, to Madrid and back to Lyon. Next stop for Griezmann: Barcelona?

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