The prolific Colombian struck gold once more, scoring a brilliant brace in the first half which, added to a fine breakaway goal from Diego, sealed the trophy for the capital outfitRadamel Falcao stood up to be counted once again as Atletico Madrid claimed the 2011-12 Europa League title after defeating Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the all-Spanish final at the National Arena in Bucharest.
The Colombian striker, who scored the winner for former club Porto in last season's final, produced two superb individual efforts in the first half alongside an equally fantastic clincher from Diego to ensure that Atletico regained the trophy that it last won in 2010.
Falcao's 12 goals also confirmed him as the tournament's top scorer for the second campaign running, as Bilbao never found a way back into the match, despite laying siege to the Atletico goal for large periods in the second half.
Atletico was on the front foot straight from kickoff, impressing with some incisive link-up play in the attacking third. When the opener arrived after seven minutes, though, it was all down to the brilliance of one man.
The ball was played to Falcao on the right side of the box, who showed delicate footwork to manufacture an inch of space and bend a sumptuous effort past Gorka Iraizoz into the top corner.
Bilbao was slow to respond to the setback, and was faced with further danger when Diego dragged a shot wide from the edge of the area.
Fernando Llorente sliced a close-range volley off target, before Iker Muniain forced Thibaut Courtois into a smart save with a low drive from just outside the box, as Marcelo Bielsa’s men began to establish a foothold in the match.
But just when they looked to be turning the match back into their favor, they were taken apart by another moment of quality from Falcao on 34 minutes.
Arda Turan’s pass found the Colombian in a great position, whose twists and turns left marker Jon Aurtenetxe on his backside before blasting home from close range for his 29th Europa League goal in 29 games.
The momentum was now with Atletico, and Falcao nearly rounded off his hat trick on the stroke of halftime after cutting in from the left side, but this time, his finish deserted him as he fired over.
Bilbao came storming out of the break, and a strong run and cross from Muniain was turned away at the last by Diego Godin with Llorente lurking for the tap-in.
As the game crossed the hour mark, Bilbao slowly began to set up shop deep in the Atletico half. Two chances went begging for Marcelo Biesla’s men, with both Andoni Iraola and Oscar De Marcos firing over the bar from positions where they really should have hit the target.
Susaeta went even closer with just over 10 minutes to go with a low drive from the right that Courtois did well to beat away.
But with large numbers camped in the opposition half, Bilbao was always vulnerable on the counter. Falcao had another chance to complete his treble after breaking free in the 80th minute, but could only strike the post with Iraizoz beaten.
Bilbao was caught out on the break again five minutes before the end, and this time Atletico made it pay. Collecting the ball a fair distance from goal, Diego left two defenders in his dust before stroking a fine finish across Iraizoz to put the match beyond any doubt
Ibai produced a late thumper that hit the woodwork, but it was of little consequence, as Bilbao’s European adventure ended in tears, with Atletico emerging as Europa League champions for the second time in three years.Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!