Atletico near Europa League final

Atletico Madrid are favourites to reach the Europa League final after a 4-2 win over La Liga rivals Valencia in their semi-final first leg.

A brace from Radamel Falcao and strikes from Miranda and Adrian Lopez gave Atleti a two-goal advantage to take to the Mestalla next week, but a last-gasp Tino Costa header added to Jonas’ leveller on the stroke of half-time gave Unai Emery’s men a glimmer of hope for the return.

The hosts began menacingly and Diego Alves was forced into saves from Diego and Adrian before Falcao opened the scoring on 18 minutes with a simple header. However, Los Che got themselves back into the game deep into first-half stoppage time when Jonas forced home at the far post after Adil Rami had headed down a Tino Costa corner.

Whatever Diego Simeone said to his players at the break seemed to work as Atleti scored twice in nine minutes after the restart, Miranda heading home Diego’s free-kick before Adrian pounced to fire low past Alves.

Colombian hitman Falcao the looked to have ensured Los Colchoneros’ place in the Bucharest final 12 minutes from time with a superb strike from outside the box that went in off the underside of the bar, yet Valencia were allowed to grab what could be a significant second when defender Ricardo Costa nodded home in added time.

Falcao told a post-match Press conference that his team will have to show the same intensity in next Thursday’s away leg if they are to reach the final.

“It was a very interesting game between two teams who like to come out and play,” said Falcao. “What concerned us tonight was getting the victory and with it a good advantage to take into the second leg.

Goalscorer Ricardo Costa, meanwhile, believes there is everything to play for after his header at least kept Valencia’s hopes alive.

“The score allows us to keep dreaming about the final as we know that we can produce a great game at Mestalla and achieve a 2-0 win there,” insisted the Portuguese. “In the opening 45 minutes Atletico were very good; they really got into the game and managed to score. After the break we conceded twice in quick succession and that’s not something you can afford do in the semi-final of a UEFA competition. They killed the game by going 3-1 up.”

Atletico Madrid 4-2 Valencia

Scorers: Falcao 18, 78, Miranda 49, Adrian 54 (AM), Jonas 45 +3, Ricardo Costa 90+4 (V)

Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Dominguez, Filipe; Arda Turan (Tiago 80), Gabi, Mario Suarez, Diego (Perea 88); Adrian (Salvio 90), Falcao.

Valencia: Diego Alves; Ricardo Costa, Rami, V

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