Forlán's final flourish has Atlético dreaming
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Diego Forlán described his decisive goal against Liverpool FC as "one of the most important of my career" after his strike earned Club Atlético de Madrid a place in the final against Fulham FC.
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Semi-final hero Diego Forlán said Club Atlético de Madrid were on the verge of writing an "incredible" new chapter in their history after overcoming Liverpool FC to take their place in next month's UEFA Europa League final.
The Uruguayan's strike 12 minutes into extra time at Anfield was enough to earn Atlético an away-goals victory against a Liverpool side who had overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit through goals from Alberto Aquilani, on the stroke of half-time, and Yossi Benayoun, in the 94th minute.
Forlán described his goal as "one of the most important of my career" as he looked ahead to the opportunity to make history with an Atlético team trophyless since 1996 yet now through to the finals of both the UEFA Europa League and Copa Del Rey. He told UEFA.com: "After so many years without reaching a final, to have two finals in front of us is incredible. In the history of the club we've not done this for so long.
"In the first half we struggled to get possession," Forlán added. "Although we had a couple of chances, they were on top and the goal just before half-time hit us hard. In the second half we had a lot more of the ball and didn't deserve to concede the second goal. But we went in search of a goal ourselves and got it."
If second-best in the first half, Atlético got stronger the longer the game went on and and Forlán might have struck late in normal time only to miscontrol Simão's through-ball. Despite Benayoun hitting Liverpool's second early in the extra period, the visitors looked the fresher side and got their reward when Forlán drove José Antonio Reyes's cross high into the net at the Kop end.
"They made it very hard for us but I've scored a few times here now and I'm really happy," said Forlán, the first-leg matchwinner, who struck both goals at Anfield in a 2-1 win for old club Manchester United FC in December 2002.
Atlético will face another Premier League outfit, Fulham FC, in the final in Hamburg on 12 May. It is their first European showpiece since 1986, when they lost to FC Dynamo Kyiv in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, and their fifth overall. Forlán said of Fulham: "They'll be difficult, I watch the English league every weekend and English teams are tough. Fulham have earned their place in the final, they've played some tough opponents."
The Rojiblancos won only one of their four previous European finals – the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1962. Atlético midfielder Raúl García believes, like Forlán, that now is the time to add to their rich history. "It's a great opportunity for us because it's been a difficult season where things haven't necessarily gone the way we'd have liked," he told UEFA.com. "We have to put the past behind us and live in the present and in the past three years now we've played in Europe and we've a chance to win two trophies."
Quique Sánchez Flores's men have certainly done it the hard way in Europe, edging their last three ties on away goals. García hailed the determination of his colleagues, saying: "We have players who can decide a game in an instant but everybody worked hard, gave everything and kept on running and that is crucial against a strong team like Liverpool."
It will be crucial again on 12 May. There may be no Spanish side in the UEFA Champions League final at the Santiago Bernabéu, but for one Liga representative at least the scent of European glory is still strong.