Sanchez Flores: It's a fabulous feeling
Atletico Madrid coach Quique Sanchez Flores hailed his players' resolve after they overcame some stubborn Fulham resistance to win the UEFA Europa League last night.
Los Rojiblancos were the more aggressive side for much of the contest in Hamburg, but the final seemed destined for penalties as the Cottagers' defence repelled wave after wave of attacks. Finally, with just four minutes to go in extra time, Diego Forlan popped up with his second goal of the evening to settle it after Simon Davies' volley had cancelled out the Uruguayan's opener.
Sanchez Flores praised his side for sticking to the task. "Fulham are a very well-organised side and they made it very difficult for us to find that second goal," he said.
"It was like we played two matches against that defence of theirs. They were great opponents but I would say that overall we deserved the victory. I am really proud of my players. They deserve all the credit because they were able to overcome a complicated situation."
Atletico have struggled in La Liga this season, due largely to a terrible start, but Sanchez Flores believes the continental success does redress the balance slightly. "I can only emphasise my admiration for the work they have put in to turn our campaign around," he said.
"It has been a long, hard season and that makes this success even more special. We are thrilled to have won a very tough final and a very difficult competition. It is a huge satisfaction - Atletico are a big, big club and we have made thousands of people happy tonight. It is the players' moment, it is their time to celebrate.
"This is a massive occasion in the history of the club. This Europa League final was a big opportunity for our team, but it was never going to be easy and when you do manage to cross the line it is a fabulous feeling."
Atletico's thoughts now turn to next Wednesday's Copa del Rey final against Sevilla in Barcelona.
Midfielder Paulo Assuncao said: "We will work hard to achieve the double. Everything we do is dedicated to the fans, for they have always been there, supporting the team."