Europa League: The Final
Falcao scored a pair of stunning first-half strikes to set up Atlético's triumph.
Falcao's love affair with the UEFA Europa League continued as he entranced Athletic Bilbao in Bucharest, scoring twice in a 3-0 victory to take the trophy to Atlético Madrid for the second time in three years.
The 26-year-old collects his second winners' medal in 357 days, having struck the only goal in last season's showpiece for Porto. He took his tally to 29 goals in 29 games in the competition here, capping a fine start with a stunning seventh-minute opener and doubling the advantage with a finely-executed second before half-time. There was no way back for Athletic, Diego sealing their fate five minutes from time.
Indeed, showpiece tension and the over-familiarity of acquaintance were never in evidence from Atlético who enjoyed a blistering start. They harried and hectored all over the pitch with an intensity and elan more associated with their opponents. Falcao was to the fore, blocking two clearances inside the opening 40 seconds, and his endeavour was soon rewarded.
There was no obvious threat as he collected Diego's pass just inside the area but Fernando Amorebieta stood off and when Falcao cut onto his left foot, the defender slipped fatally. Before he had regained his composure Falcao had capitalised, curling a sumptuous effort around the retreating Jon Aurtenetxe and just inside the far post.
Athletic's 28-year wait to dust off their gabarra, the barge they use for victory cruises along the Ibaizabal river whenever they secure silverware, looked set to go on. There were flickers of hope of regaining an even keel, most coming from the enterprising Iker Muniain, at 19 the youngest member of a side whose average age was just 24. But then, on 34 minutes, came the second.
Athletic were architects of their own downfall as Amorebieta, tarrying on the edge of the box, was pick-pocketed by Miranda. He fed Arda Turan, and though the winger's centre left Falcao with much to do, how easy the Colombian made it look, shaping to shoot but instead dragging the ball back and leaving Jon Aurtenetxe on the floor before firing high into the roof of the net.
It was all or nothing now for Athletic, and coach Marcelo Bielsa rang the changes at half-time as he sought to fortify his midfield and add impetus to the attack. Yet with Mario Suárez imperious and ever-vigilant in front of the Atlético defence, reinforced by the disciplined Diego, Adrián López and Arda, Los Colchoneros' advantage always looked sufficient.
At the other end only a timely deflection and the width of the post denied Falcao a hat-trick but Diego did grab a third on the counter, brushing aside Amorebieta and striking into the bottom corner. Ibai Gómez hit the crossbar for Athletic in the closing moments, but they will have to make do with a second shot at ending their trophy drought when they meet Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final on 25 May; for Atlético, and the gilded Falcao, the gold rush continues.