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After his stunning volley sealed Club Atlético de Madrid's passage through to the UEFA Europa League final at Valencia CF's expense, forward Adrián López told UEFA.com that the world will witness a "beautiful" encounter when the Rojiblancos meet Athletic Club in next month's showpiece.
The inaugural tournament winners started this campaign with a third qualifying round victory against Norwegian side Strømsgodset IF last July and have chalked up 16 wins in 18 encounters en route to next month's Bucharest final. Thursday's 1-0 win at Valencia, in which Tiago was dismissed late on, was the club's 11th in a row in Europe and sealed a 5-2 aggregate triumph.
"We knew that they were going to attack," said Adrián. "They had to come out, giving everything in their own stadium, so our job was to defend well and try to hurt them when we could."
It was a rampant first-leg display that earned Diego Simeone's side a significant advantage when the teams met in Madrid a week earlier. This time, though, they proved that disciplined defending is also part of their repertoire as they ended Valencia's previously unblemished record in UEFA competition semi-finals.
"We played two great games in this tie," Adrián explained. "Tonight we defended well. In the first half it was important to soak up pressure while in the second they didn't come at us as much. We had chances on the counter and it was from one such move that we scored. After that, we were the better team."
The hosts had no response to the 24-year-old's 11th European goal of the campaign – a phenomenal control and volley on the hour – and exited the competition for the second time in three seasons to the same opponents. Athletic now stand in the way of Atlético's attempts to make history.
"Athletic have so many qualities and play very well; they are formidable opponents," said the striker. "They are in the final for a reason and I think it will be a beautiful occasion."
Adrian's team-mate Thibaut Courtois, meanwhile, predicted there would be little to choose between the finalists at the National Arena on 9 May. "It's going to be 50-50," the goalkeeper said. "We are more or less level in the Liga. In Athletic Club we know we are facing a great team where almost anything can happen, but we hope we can win it."
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