On its 109th birthday, Atlético Madrid qualified for the Europa League final for the second time in three years.
On Wednesday the 9th of May, we will travel to Bucarest to take on our Basque brothers from Athletic Club.
Atleti struggled at the Mestalla on Thursday night, but the tightly contested match was decided by a golazo from Adrián López.
The first opportunity of the match came after 20 minutes. Like last week, Valencia again threatened through corner kicks and Jonas almost scored after flicking on a volley from Feghouli. Thibaut Courtois however got down very well and responded quickly when the shot changed its course because of the deflection. The Belgian also stopped the rebound which fell before the feet of Jonas.
Atleti had made it through the opening period comfortably but again looked shaky when Feghouli and Soldado went for goal just a minute later.
With Canales and Jordi Alba in charge, Valencia completely dominated the first half, as the home team piled on the pressure. It seemed only a matter of time before the Rojiblancos’ defence would crack, but Courtois proved to be too big an obstacle.
Shortly before the break, Atleti livened up and created their first opportunity of the game on a fast break. If Arda Turan’s pass had been more accurate, then Falcao surely would have scored number 11 of his Europa League campaign, but the Turk’s pass was just out of reach.
While still searching for the opening, there was bad news for Valencia. Just as Emery took off Jonas, one of his other offensive players went down. Canales, arguably the best player on display, fell awkwardly and seemed to suffer the same knee injury that has kept him out for most of this season.
While Los Che were still recovering from their loss, Atleti dealt a huge blow. A long pass by Diego was controlled on the chest by Adrián, and our most valuable player of the tournament smashed the ball into the far top corner with an absolutely fantastic effort from the edge of the area.
Like we have become accustomed to in the Europa League, Adrián scored a peach of a goal. It was his 11th this season, setting a Spanish record, with the most goals in European competition in a single campaign.
Some minutes later Falcao could have put the tie beyond doubt, but he lost his balance and shot straight at Diego Alves.
Ten minutes before the end a lot of controversy arose as the excellent Skomina seemed to wrongfully award a penalty, judging that Tiago handballed inside the area when it was actually Tino Costa who knocked the ball away. Upset over the decision Tiago got into a scuffle with Jordi Alba and was subsequently sent off for slapping Soldado, meaning that the Portuguese midfielder will miss the final in two weeks’ time.
Fortunately for Atleti, to avoid a nerve-wrecking finish, the linesman advised the referee not to point to the spot after all.
Over in Bilbao it was Athletic who qualified for the final after beating Sporting Lisbon over two legs. When Atlético take on Los Leones at the National Arena in Bucharest, we will be wearing our red and white stripes as we have the home advantage.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Diego (“84 Koke), Tiago, Mario (“46 Gabi), Arda (“74 Salvio); Adrián and Falcao.
Goals: 0-1 Adrián (“60)