Spanish duo Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid will face off in the Europa League final slated for May 9th after defeating Sporting Lisbon and Valencia respectively in last night’s semi finals.
Bilbao were 4-3 winners over Sporting while Atletico had a 5-2 aggregate win over Valencia. At the San Mames stadium, fans were treated to a very entertaining fixture between two sides that did not fail to entertain.
The game seemed to be heading for extra time until Fernando Llorente struck in the 88th minute to make it 3-1 on the night (4-3 on aggregate) and break the hearts of the traveling fans.
Speaking after the match, Sporting manager Ricardo Sa Pinto could not hide his disappointment with his side’s exist.
“It is very hard to lose like this,” he said.
“Our expectations were to reach the final, that is what we worked for. We were an extraordinary team in this competition, in terms of quality and organisation, and we showed an incredible desire to win and reach the final in Bucharest.
“We knew that they wanted to take advantage of aerial play. We faced a very aggressive side, while we lacked some aggression and clarity, especially in the first half. I am proud to coach this team and to look at the path we took. I think we honoured Sporting’s badge.”
Over in Valencia, it was a similar case of disappointment for the home side as they lost 1-0 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate to Atletico despite dominating the game for lengthy spells.
Atletico now have a shot at winning the trophy they last won 2 years ago. Speaking after the match, Atletico coach Diego Simeone hailed his players for their heroic display.
“I am very happy, mainly for the players, who have made an enormous effort. What they do is heroic,” he said.
“We knew it would be difficult and they pressured us well, which is to be expected here at the Mestalla. In the second half we made a tactical change and didn’t suffer as many problems and we knew as time went on the spaces would open up and the goal pretty much settled the tie.”
The final will will be played in Bucharest , Romania at the Stadionul National on May 9th.
photo credit © Diego’s sideburns