Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey was the toast of Atletico Madrid after a 1-0 victory over Arsenal to advanced to the Europe League final 2-1 on aggregate on Thursday.
Partey was deployed in an unusual position at right back as excelled for the home side as Diego Simeone’s side booked their first final in the competition since winning it in 2012.
The Ghana star was monstrous in his performance as stopping Arsenal marauding wingers to deny Arsene Wenger his last chance to lift a European trophy as manager of Arsenal, where he’s set to leave after 22 years at season’s end.
Simeone, serving a touchline ban after being sent off in the Emirates first leg, watched from a stadium suite as his men rode a goal from Diego Costa to their fourth continental final in his tenure as boss.
Costa was unlucky not to score on just six minutes when he battled past two Arsenal defenders before firing well wide from an angle with only goalkeeper David Ospina to beat.
Laurent Koscielny came off in the 11th minute with what looked to be a serious, non-contact injury to his lower leg.
The France international pounded the ground with his hand and was in visible pain for several minutes before being stretchered off and replaced by Calum Chambers, with reports later suggesting he suffered a ruptured achilles.
Arsenal created their best chance of the half midway through — Alexandre Lacazette, laying off for Mesut Ozil in the box but the German’s low cross from close range could only find rojiblanco legs in the six-yard box.
Antoine Griezmann went close on 37 minutes, swiveling and sliding his shot just wide of the post after finding space in the area.
But Costa redeemed himself in first-half stoppage time. Started by a long ball from goalkeeper Jan Oblak, Griezmann’s sweeping pass to the left found the Spain international who held off Hector Bellerin and fired past Ospina with his left foot.
Needing a goal to force extra-time, Arsenal pushed forward in the second half with a harried Aaron Ramsey unfortunate not to make clean contact with only Oblak to beat early on.
Oblak did well to palm a low drive from Granit Xhaka around the post just after the hour mark and Griezmann forced a save from Ospina after fine work from Costa in the box minutes later.
Wenger brought on Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Jack Wilshere in the 69th minute and he nearly grabbed a goal for the Gunners three minutes later — his shot from outside the area flying just high of Oblak’s crossbar.
Angel Correa then took Vitolo’s place in the 74th minute as Atleti looked to kill off the tie with a second goal.
Costa and Shkodran Mustafi were issued yellow cards for a few shoves after the Brazilian tossed the ball away after an Arsenal free kick.
And Koke forced Ospina into action with a stinging shot from distance with five minutes to play.
Arsenal men poured forward in a desperate attempt to level the tie but couldn’t find the goal they needed at raucous Wanda on the night.
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