May 16, 2018 / 9:44 PM / 6 days ago

Soccer: Griezmann pounces twice as Atletico sink hapless Marseille

LYON, France (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann struck twice as the Spanish side outclassed hapless Olympique de Marseille 3-0 on Wednesday to win the Europa League for the third time.

Soccer Football - Europa League Final - Olympique de Marseille vs Atletico Madrid - Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France - May 16, 2018 Atletico Madrid's Fernando Torres celebrates with the trophy and team mates after winning the Europa League REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Marseille dominated the opening stages but gifted Atletico the lead when Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa failed to control goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s pass out and Gabi intercepted before setting Griezmann free to score in the 21st minute.

Marseille had wasted a chance to take a fourth-minute lead when Valere Germain skewed his shot wide with only Jan Oblak to beat and it got worse for them when playmaker Dimitri Payet left the field injured in floods of tears in the 32nd minute.

Four minutes after the re-start, Koke ran into a hole in the Marseille midfield and slipped the ball to Griezmann who dinked the ball past Mandanda, and Gabi added a late third to hand the French side their third defeat in as many finals in the competition.

Soccer Football - Europa League Final - Olympique de Marseille vs Atletico Madrid - Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France - May 16, 2018 Atletico Madrid celebrate with the trophy after winning the Europa League REUTERS/John Sibley

The final scoreline mirrored Atletico’s last Europa League final win over Athletic Bilbao in 2012 and cemented their status as one of the most consistent teams on the continent since Simeone transformed their fortunes.

The only team able to overcome them in knockout European football since 2013 are arch-rivals Real Madrid, who beat them in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals and knocked them out of the competition in 2015 and 2017.

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Marseille had been thoroughly beaten and could only salute their fervent supporters, who outnumbered the Spanish fans in the 59,000-capacity Groupama Stadium and let off flares and firecrackers at the start and end of the game.

As well as missing out on a first European trophy since winning the Champions League in 1993, Rudi Garcia’s side squandered an automatic route back into Europe’s elite competition.

They now must overhaul third-placed Olympique Lyonnais, who they trail by one point in the Ligue 1 standings heading into the final weekend of the season.

Propelled by the fervent supporters who had waited 14 years to reach another European final, the French side created two early chances to take a surprise lead but both striker Germain and defender Adil Rami missed the target.

Atletico were happy to sit back in the opening stages and had one half chance which Koke skewed wide but they picked an opportune moment to strike and Griezmann’s goal against the run seriously wounded Marseille.

The French side looked even more lost when Payet went off and Griezmann’s supremely well-taken second goal effectively finished them off.

Marseille substitute Kostas Mitroglou struck the post with a fine header late on but Atletico had a dream end to the final as captain Gabi struck the third goal and beloved forward Fernando Torres came on for the last few minutes to claim his first trophy with the club.

Additional reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond

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