Trophy Store Blog
UEFA Europa League Final 2012
10 May 2012
Atlético Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao
As we near the end of the season across Europe, it's always an exciting time as the finals take place and we get to see who will be ending the season on a high; winning major football trophies, and who has come up slightly short. Last night was no exception, and we got to see a continuation of the Spanish dominance in continental competition, with Atlético Madrid coming up against the Basque giants Athletic Bilbao.
This season has been a particularly interesting one for fans of the Europa League (especially those based in England). We saw the two towers of Manchester fall out of the Champion's League and in to UEFA's second competition, as Valencia and many other household names followed. It's questionable if any other course of events could have brought more attention to a sometimes slightly unappreciated contest, as we got to see a few clashes between some of the biggest names in football.
The other competitors from England were Fulham, Stoke City, Birmingham FC (who qualified through their Carling Cup win, making them one of the only teams play compete in Europe from the second division) and Tottenham Hotspur (UEFA Cup winners in 1972 & 1984). Fulham continued their recent rich history in Europe, and joined the rest of England's performers in the group stage, but fell at the final hurdle with all English teams except Stoke City finishing third in their group, thus eliminating them.
After the group stage is the knockout phase, where the third placed Champion's League teams are entered in to the competition. Four are seeded and four are not (dependent on results), and the draw matches one un-seeded team against a seeded one. Manchester United drew Ajax, leading to a narrow 3-2 aggregate win, while their City rivals comfortably dispatched of Porto after a nervy first leg with a 6-1 win.
In the round of 16, Athletic Bilbao almost completely sealed themselves as the season's surprise package with a completely domination over Manchester United. The final aggregate score was 5-3, but it's not unfair to imagine that it could have been a lot higher in Bilbao's favour. Manchester City were also eliminated by Sporting CP with a dramatic last minute header from goalkeeper Joe Hart drawing a magnificent last minute save from his Sporting counterpart, keeping the overall score at 3-3 with the Portuguese going through on away goals.
After such an incredible season, it was only fitting that the final followed suit. Disappointingly for Bilbao fans, the match ended in a 3-0 drubbing, making Atlético Madrid the 41st winners of the prestigious Europa League, and capping a perfect end to a season which has seen the stock of some of their starlets rise to the occasion and take the Madrid side to their second title in three years.
The match was decided by two first half Radamel Falcao goals (his second Europa League win in two years, previously with Porto), with a late Diego goal sealing the win. What was interesting was the way Atlético almost completely stifled the Bilbao attacking prowess and up until the last 20 minutes, there was only one team in the game.
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