By Simon Hart in Gothenburg
"The winner takes it all," sang Waterloo, the Abba tribute band who entertained the crowd in the build-up to this 33rd UEFA Cup final. And so it proved, Didier Drogba's scoring streak in Europe this season reduced to a footnote in the record books as Olympique de Marseille were left standing small by Spanish champions Valencia CF.
Long before the final whistle, the Ullevi stadium was ablaze with the orange of Valencia's supporters, their scarves spinning above their heads in celebration of their club's first European trophy in 24 years. Marseille never recovered from losing their goalkeeper and a goal on the stroke of half-time - Fabien Barthez was sent off for tripping Mista and Vicente Rodríguez tucked away the ensuing penalty. When Mista doubled the lead with a fierce drive just before the hour, Valencia's victory was secured.
Drogba, the Ivory Coast forward who had scored against every previous opponent in Europe this term, had predicted that Valencia would "probably be the best team we have played this season" and so it proved. Apart from a bright spell in the opening half-hour, Valencia were the dominant team and Drogba had few opportunities against a defence that conceded just five goals in 13 ties in this competition. Indeed his frustration, evident long before the final whistle, boiled over when he barged into Rubén Baraja and was booked.
His night contrasted markedly with that of Mista, who was voted man of the match. The 24-year-old Valencia striker's contribution highlights his success this season in bringing goals to a side who had struggled to convert chances ever since Claudio López's departure. This season he has struck 19 in the league and now five in the UEFA Cup. Last summer he was given a book on relaxation by club physiotherapist Paco Ayestarán and he certainly took his goal like a man with no worries.
Mista was not the only hero in a Valencia side featuring four regular Spanish internationals in Carlos Marchena and the superb midfield trio of David Albelda, Baraja and Vicente. Special mention must go to Amedeo Carboni who became the oldest player to win a UEFA club competition at 39 years and 43 days - 14 years after winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in this same stadium with UC Sampdoria.
Occasion to savour
The Gothenburg newspaper, Göteborgs-Posten had predicted that "Publiken redan vinnare" – 'the public will be the winners' - as it reported on a clean bill of health for both teams before the match. And while Marseille's fans will have needed some persuading of this at the final whistle, there was much to enjoy in Sweden's second city.
Scenes of celebration
Over 100 planes had brought 22,000 fans over from Spain and France and on Gothenburg's main street, the Kungsports Avenyn, the orange of Valencia mingled happily with the blue and white of Marseille before the match. Curiously the green and white of Celtic FC was also prominent. After last year's party in Seville, it seemed some supporters had come back for more. One wore a kilt, a sombrero and a rubber Henrik Larsson facemask - a Swedish connection, certainly, but unlikely to help him blend into a crowd of locals.
Inside the stadium, the Abba impersonators were not the only pre-match attraction. A big furry bat - aka Valencia's mascot Lo rat penat - made an appearance, as did some cheerleaders rather less well insulated against the chilly evening. As the teams took the field, the supporters of these two Mediterranean sides produced a memorable spectacle: thousands of blue-and-white flags fluttered at the Marseille end, while sheets of red, yellow and blue plastic formed a Valencia flag at the other.
Valencia's victory brings a fourth European trophy for a team beaten in the first two UEFA Champions League finals of this century. Marseille, meanwhile, have failed a second time to capture France's first UEFA Cup. French teams had lost nine of eleven European finals prior to this match. Unfortunately, as Waterloo told us before kick-off: "The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself."
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