Man of the Match: For the second year in a row, Radamel Falcao’s team wins Europa League, and for the second year in a row, he was the most important player in the final. Last year for Porto, his 44th minute goal was the final’s only score. This year, his first half double carried Atlético to their second Europa title in three years.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Atlético goalkeeper Thibault Courtois could have gotten some Man of the Match consideration were it not for Falcao, though the selection would have been a little pinky out on the tea cup. Still, the Chelsea loanee was commanding in his area, making it clear Athletic were not going to be able to target Fernando Llorente.
- On both Atlético goals, balls played in from the left for a right-shaded Falcao meant left back Jon Aurtenetxe had to deal with the threat. Both times, as Falcao moved the ball onto his left foot, Aurtenetxe slipped, preventing him from putting in a challenge. The first goal was a beautiful curling ball into the upper-left hand corner from 17 yards out, while the second saw Falcao hammer the ball into the left side of goal from seven yards out.
- Autenetxe would be subbed off at halftime, as was holding midfielder Ander Iturraspe, with Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa deciding to waste no time changing a team that failed to meaningfully threaten Atletico. Often you see coaches wait a few minutes into the second half, hoping the lineup that failed in the first half have some kind of intermission epiphany. Bielsa was over it.
- Athletic may have looked more like a team at the end of a long season than a one primed to take advantage of a rare chance at continental glory, but Atlético’s defense deserves the bulk of the credit. Even when Athletic were able to hold long spells of possession, Atlético remained disciplined and patient, waiting for Athletic to make their move into the final third before snuffing it out. The times Athletic became frustrated with trying to break them down, they’d go over the top only to see Courtois easily claim their crosses. Defender João Miranda along with midfielders Gabi and Mario Suárez led the effort.
- That’s not to say Atlétic weren’t supplying any pressure. In the first half, Falcao and either Arda Turan or Diego ran at center halves Javi Martinez and Fernando Amorebieta, forcing the duo to play wide to the full backs, generally preventing Athletic from building through their midfield trio. As a result, midfielders Ander Herrera and Óscar de Marcos were kept relatively quiet.
- Though Atlético played the second half on the counter, they always seemed more likely to get a third than concede. Late in the half, Diego obliged, sealing the title, though there was never really a point where the Rojiblancos looked capable of conceding.
- Even though may had rationalized Athletic’s recent troubles by noting their Copa del Rey and Europa runs, league form ultimately carried over into the final. Atlético came into the game unbeaten in seven (counting their Europa League semifinal lega), while Athletic was winless in three, having dropped all the way to 10th in La Liga.
- It looked like a great night for soccer in Bucharest. Large numbers of supporters for each club made the trip, giving the National Arena a more vibrant feel than previous Europa League finals.
- Athletic still has the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona. That’s still 15 days away, giving the squad plenty of time to recover and try to claim their first major trophy in 28 years.
- Atlético has a must win match Sunday at Villarreal. Three points there coupled with a Málaga stumble against Sporting Gíjon and Diego Simeone will have guided his team into Champions League.
- The Champions League berth would complete the amazing turnaround Atlético’s had under Simeone. The Argentine boss was brought in at the winter break with the club in 11th place. In the 30 games since, Atlético’s won 18, losing only five. As much as Falcao will be honored for today’s victory, the most important person to Atlético’s run may have been in the coach’s box.
Crystal Palace may have a new home in the next few years.
That’s according to reports out of English, which state that Crystal Palace owner Steve Parish is set to make a major stadium announcement before Christmas.
Crystal Palace’s home stadium, Selhurst Park, is nearly 100 years old, and the club has looked over the last few years at either new locations for a stadium in South London or ways to renovate the current ground.
“When I came into this thing, the aim was to bring something for all of us to be proud of on the pitch and very importantly off the pitch,” Parish told the Croydon Advertiser. “We want to give everybody in Croydon a south London stadium that we can all be proud of and not lose our atmosphere and uniqueness.
“That’s a dream for me, a lifelong dream and one that hopefully everybody will share when they see what we’ve put together. It’s fantastically exciting times for us to look forward to.”
Unlike in America, where many sports owners demand a new stadium every 20-25 years or so, in England, there are many stadiums still in use across the Football League and Premier League that were initially built in the 1800s.
It’s unclear who would pay for a new Crystal Palace stadium, what it would look like and how many seats it would hold, but perhaps a new stadium and facility could help
There’s never been more on the line in the latest Trilliam Cup matchup.
For the first time, Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew will meet in the MLS Cup playoffs, kicking off at 8:00 p.m., with both teams taking different paths to the Eastern Conference finals.
Toronto FC battled the New York Red Bulls to win on away goals, after a 2-1 win in Red Bull Arena in the first leg, but tempers flared and the Supporters Shield winners will be without both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore on Tuesday night. The Crew meanwhile survived an incredible 120 minutes at Atlanta United to win in a shootout, and then carried that momentum into a 4-3 aggregate victory over New York City FC.
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Now, with the Crew’s status in Columbus still up in the air, Crew fans have one chance to pack MAPFRE Stadium to support their team and prove to the league they can support an MLS franchise.
Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the upstart Houston Dynamo host a sold-out crowd as the defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders visit, with kickoff set for 9:30 p.m.
The Dynamo stunned the injury-riddled Portland Timbers in the last round and the Dynamo has lost just once at home in MLS action this calendar year. On the other side, the Sounders are getting a major boost, with Osvaldo Alonso and Jordan Morris close to returning, either in this game or next week, and Clint Dempsey remains fit and raring to go back in his home state.
Follow all the action from tonight’s MLS Cup playoff matchups.
On it’s face, Los Angeles FC signing an Egyptian international may be strange.
But when you think about who’s calling the shots, it makes all the sense in the world.
LAFC coach Bob Bradley brought in a former player of his from his time with the Pharoahs, as Omar Gaber became the latest player to join the new MLS club. Gaber comes from FC Basel on a season-long loan. The 25-year-old right back has played just once for Basel in the 2017-2018 season in the league, finding himself on the outside looking in and looking for a new place to prove his fitness ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
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“I loved working with all the Egyptian players, and had a great opportunity to get to know Omar during that time,” Bradley said in a statement. “He’s always been admired by teammates and fans for his all-around contributions and willingness to give everything on the field. I am proud to welcome Omar Gaber to LAFC.”
Gaber is the fifth signing this offseason for LAFC.
Romelu Lukaku doesn’t have to worry about having to serve time in a Beverly Hills, Calif. jail cell.
After being issued a citation this past July for multiple noise complaints at a residence, on Tuesday a Los Angeles court ordered that Lukaku pay $450 to the Beverly Hills Police Department to reimburse them for multiple responses to the residence. The decision by the court reduces the Manchester United striker’s offense from a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum of six months in jail, to a charge of disturbing the peace.
“They are reaching a disposition in this case that the first thing that must happen is the defendant must pay Beverly Hills Police Department $450 for multiple response calls.,” Jane Godfrey, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner said.
Of course, it was unlikely that Lukaku would ever face jail time for his offenses, but perhaps now with this out of the way, he can get back to doing what he does best; scoring goals.