Diego Forlán struck with four minutes of extra time remaining as Club Atlético de Madrid ended a 48-year wait for major continental silverware, beating Fulham FC 2-1 in the inaugural UEFA Europa League final.
There had been little to choose between the sides throughout. Forlán and Simon Davies exchanged first-half goals then, as fatigue set in, they matched each other for endeavour. Yet as those around him tired the Uruguayan international gained energy. With the lottery of a penalty shoot-out looming, he did just enough to divert Sergio Agüero's cross into the far corner via Brede Hangeland. The wait was over.
If this was to be the night Fulham introduced themselves to the big stage after 131 years in the shadows, there were few obvious signs of nerves. They started confidently, expansively, passing from the back. That almost proved their undoing on 12 minutes, as Agüero pounced on a loose Danny Murphy pass just inside the Fulham half. He fed Forlán with only Mark Schwarzer to beat from the angle but the striker, in such fine form, fluffed his lines – his low shot across goal hitting the upright.
Fulham heeded the warning, finding a more natural rhythm and, midway through the half, a long-range shot from Davies to warm David de Gea's hands. Agüero was knocking on the door in more subtle style at the other end, ever a threat cutting in from the left flank. His contribution to the opener, though, was less refined. José Antonio Reyes outstripped Dickson Etuhu on the right, lofting a pass for Simão to direct into Agüero's path. The striker miscued his effort but it fell perfectly for the lurking Forlán, who made no mistake this time.
But Fulham have performed so many Lazarus acts this term that they could reasonably have the feat renamed in their honour, and within five minutes it was all square. Bobby Zamora did well to turn inside Luis Perea on the left though the opening it brought had all but closed when the ball rolled to Zoltán Gera. The Hungarian international steadied himself and crossed towards the far post where Davies lashed in.
After surviving more Atlético pressure as half-time approached, Fulham emerged for the restart a renewed force. The Spanish side were indebted to the reactions of De Gea, the goalkeeper wary to the threat of Gera after a brilliant Murphy pass, then beating away Davies' shot after the ball dropped fortuitously for the winger. In between Zamora, a major injury doubt before the game, had made way for Clint Dempsey – it failed to stem the Fulham tide, though as the game became more and more fractious Atlético got on an even keel.
Extra time was increasingly inevitable, a test for any side let alone two who have played over 60 games of the season. Forlán has played the majority for Atlético but ominously for Fulham he looked fresh – Quique Sánchez Flores's greatest regret must have been that his No7 was not on the end of his own surging run and cross on 105 minutes as Eduardo Salvio and Agüero both failed to capitalise. And then, with penalties approaching he was where it mattered; nearly half a century after Atlético beat ACF Fiorentina to claim their first major European honour, they have a second.
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