Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao made the difference on Wednesday night in Bucharest. His side picked up its third Europa League title with a dominating 3-0 victory in an all-Spanish final.
Columbian striker Falcao put his team in front with an early goal in front of a sell out crowd in the National Arena stadium in Bucharest.
The strike came after just seven minutes following a pass from ex-Bundesliga player Diego, and sent the Atletico Madrid fans into wild celebrations.
By 20 minutes though, the match was evenly balanced. A good shot from up-and-coming Bilbao striker Munian, gave an indication of what the Basque team was truly capable of.
But it wasn't long before Falcao again showed his brilliance with some deft footwork in front of goal, slamming home with his left foot in the 34th minute.
The goal made Falcao the Europa League's top scorer for the second season in a row, with 28 goals from his last 29 matches.
Second half fightback
As expected, Bilbao came out on a mission for the start of the second half, maintaining pressure on the capital city club. But Atletico Madrid were too strong in defense, allowing barely any shots on goal.
Despite their best efforts, there were no true chances from the Basque side in the second half until the 79th minute when Markel Susaeta smashed the ball straight into Atletico's keeper, Thibau Courtois.
The final ten minutes of the game were frenetic, but Bilbao remained unable to score.
Shortly before the final whistle, Atletico Madrid's playmaker Diego sealed the win with a fine solo run and well-placed left foot finish. It was the third goal of the campaign for the Brazilian, who is currently on loan from Bundesliga club Wolfsburg.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone praised his players, but said that his own celebrations had been somewhat subdued. "Winning is always marvelous, but you enjoy it more as a player, because you are on the pitch, you can scream, run, do a lap of honor," said the 42-year-old. "When you are a coach you leave that sort of thing to the players."
Athletic Bilbao's manager, former Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa, accepted responsibility for the defeat. "I am disappointed, we did not play a good match," he said.
Europa League winners again
The 3-0 win for Atletico marks their second win in the European club competition in the last three years. Their last Europa League title came in 2010 against Fulham, following two goals from Argentine striker Diego Forlan.
Wednesday night's win was also the 12th victory in a row in the Europa League this season for the Madrid side, a new competition record.
Meanwhile, a number of Bilbao players and fans burst into tears in the stadium following their team's loss. The result continues the club's run of 28 years without a major title.
Author: André Leslie
Editor: Richard Connor