Spirited Forlan leads Atletico Madrid to Europa League triumph

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Diego Forlan . . . that is the name that will forever be written in gold when the yarn of the maiden edition of the Europa League grand final is spun; for the day belonged to

him!

The Atletico Madrid striker broke the hearts of the Liverpool faithful, dolling out a brace of goals on either side of the semi-final tie to send the Reds crashing out of the Europa League. He did it again on Thursday night in the final against Fulham, slotting in yet another brace in a dogged game that needed the strain of extra time to separate the two sides.

Before the game, Forlan stated that fetching goals in the Europa League final will bring him greater satisfaction than those that knocked Liverpool out of contention for the title. The former Manchester United forward was thrilled to hit the target in each leg of the semi-final, but he had an agenda going into the final at Hamburg: “. . . if I score against Fulham it will mean even more [to me]. And I will be going all out to try to score and win the cup.”

Making a telling impact at the Hamburg Arena that will outshine his heroics against the Reds was his dream. Hear him, “I’ve imagined winning the cup and I have pictures in my mind!” Europa League final glory was the Golden Fleece he sought after, and he captured it with a panache worthy of a top striker!

Fulham and Madrid played their hearts out in a game that lived up to the pundits’ expectations: they sold the brand of football worthy of a final such as it was – a classic match by any standard! Two classic first-half goals worth a King’s ransom: Madrid’s Forlan threw down the gauntlet with a classic screamer in the 32nd minute, and Fulham’s Simon Davis countered in like fashion 5 minutes later; and that was how the first half ended – in a 1-1 stalemate.

The second half was a balanced game that saw countless forays, blistering attacks and counter attacks, gallant defending, shots at goal, brilliant goal-keeping and near misses. It was however a barren half that recorded no further goals: that was how the 90-minute regulation period ended.

For countless Ghanaians who thronged the various viewing arenas across the country to enjoy the Multi TV BIG SCREEN EXPERIENCE, their biggest disappointment was the ominous exclusion of compatriot John Paintsil in the Fulham starting line-up. As the match progressed, the consistent overlapping forays of the Black Stars’ stalwart defender in a Fulham game was sorely missed. Fulham also pined for a full-flight contribution of half-fit talismanic Bobby Zamora, the club’s top scorer this season with 19 goals, who had to be substituted in the 55th minute. Zamora suffered an Achilles injury that required a pain-killing injection two weeks ago.

resourcefulness, stretching every sinew and bone to break the stalemate. Once again, it was Forlan who stepped up to be counted as the most envied striker in the Europa League this season. His 116th minute cheeky chip, placed beyond the outstretched Fulham goalie, won the game and title for Atletico Madrid, it was just 4 minutes to the end of extra time, when the game seemed to be heading for penalties.

Credit to Fulham though – they were not pushovers. Against all odds, Roy Hodgson has taken the club to dizzy heights this season, picking up the LMA Manager of the Season award along the way. On the march to the final, Fulham accounted for Juventus, decisioned Wolfsburg, dethroned Shakhtar Donetsk, and outfoxed Hamburg, all giant-killing feats. They also made history with their first ever European final; and the Europa League 2010 final against Atletico Madrid on Thursday night, was to be the greatest night in their 131-year history. Alas, they were gallant losers though: Madrid needed 90 minutes plus an extra-time Forlan Magic to beat Fulham, the pre-game underdogs.

Multi TV had given viewers an exhilarating run in the Europa League this season, the curtain is drawn with an eventful final, and the stage is set for an even more exciting viewing experience next season. Tune in to Multi TV for the season-enders in the Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A and the French Ligue 1 this weekend.

Story by Kojo Amoah – Multi TV Sports Desk