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Atletico Takes Madrid Soccer Spotlight With Europa League Win

Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid
Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid holds the UEFA Europa League trophy, in Hamburg, on Wednesday. Photographer: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid’s victory in the Europa League final means at least one soccer trophy is headed to the Spanish capital this season.

Diego Forlan’s extra-time goal at the Hamburg Arena in Germany last night gave Atletico a 2-1 win over Fulham and its first European title since the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1962.

Atletico, which has been overshadowed by city rival and record nine-time European champion Real Madrid, can add another trophy by winning the May 19 Spanish Cup final. Real may end a second straight season without silverware as it trails league leader Barcelona by a point with one match left.

“In time we’ll start to realize just what we’ve achieved but now it’s time to celebrate,” Forlan said in comments on UEFA’s website. “Next week we’ll be looking to win a second trophy.”

Forlan’s second goal of the game with four minutes of extra time remaining came after Simon Davies scored for Fulham, which was seeking to win the first major trophy in the London club’s 131-year history.

It was the second straight final of Europe’s second-tier club competition that needed extra time. Shakhtar Donetsk beat Werder Bremen 2-1 last year when the tournament was called the UEFA Cup.

“To concede so late was a bitter blow and it will take time before that pain passes,” Fulham manager Roy Hodgson said in comments on UEFA’s website. “Having seen the team acquit itself so well, you’d have liked to think we could have taken that extra step.”

Early Chances

Atletico had a chance to take the lead in the 12th minute as Forlan’s shot hit a post. Jose Antonio Reyes’s free kick was then saved by Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

Atletico went ahead in the 32nd minute when Forlan pounced on Sergio Aguero’s mishit shot to fire past Schwarzer as Fulham appealed for offside.

Fulham tied the game five minutes later. Gera’s cross took a deflection and fell to Davies, whose volley beat goalkeeper David de Gea at the far post.

Hodgson brought on Clint Dempsey in the 55th minute for Bobby Zamora, who’s been playing with an Achilles tendon injury that needs painkilling injections.

Davies forced de Gea into a diving save five minutes later and Damien Duff shot wide from about 25 yards out. Danny Murphy squandered Fulham’s final chance of the opening 90 minutes by sending his free kick into the defensive wall two minutes from the end.

Forlan, whose extra-time goal in the semifinal at Liverpool sent Atletico to the final on away goals, sealed his team’s first major trophy since 1996 when he flicked Aguero’s cross off the leg of defender Brede Hangeland and past Schwarzer.

“Atletico are a big, big club and we have made thousands of people happy,” said Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores. “This is a massive occasion in the history of the club.”

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