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Falcao brace hands Atletico Madrid advantage in Europa League semi

updated 5:35 PM EDT, Thu April 19, 2012
Colombian striker Falcao scores Atletico's first goal in their 4-2 victory over Valencia in the Europa League
Colombian striker Falcao scores Atletico's first goal in their 4-2 victory over Valencia in the Europa League
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Atletico Madrid beat fellow Spaniards Valencia 4-2 in their Europa League semifinal first leg
  • Falcao scores twice for Atletico but late goal for Valencia takes gloss off their win
  • Portugal's Sporting Lisbon come from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in other tie
  • Goals from Diego Capel and Emiliano Insua cancel out Jon Aurtenetxe's opener

(CNN) -- Two goals from Colombian striker Falcao put Atletico Madrid in the driving seat as they defeated fellow Spanish side Valencia 4-2 in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal.

The 26-year-old took his goal tally for the season to 32 as Diego Simone's side took a commanding lead in their final four clash at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Goals from Miranda and Adrian sandwiched Falcao's brace, but Ricardo Costa's injury time header, which added to Jonas' earlier strike, gave Valencia hope ahead of the second leg next week.

In the other semifinal, two late goals helped Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon to a 2-1 home victory over another Spanish side, Athletic Bilbao.

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It took Atletico just 18 minutes to break the deadlock against Valencia, as they came out of the traps quicker than their opponents.

Turkish international Arda Turan managed to keep the ball alive as Adil Rami looked to shepherd it out for a goal kick, but a deflection took it into Falcao's path and he nodded into the far corner.

Against the run of play, Jonas pulled Valencia level in injury time at the end of the first half as he turned home Rami's header from point blank range.

But Atletico eased in front after the restart when Brazilian midfielder Diego picked out Miranda from a free kick and the centre half found the net.

Five minutes later it was 3-1 as Adrian pounced on a mistake from Mehmet Topal to drive into the area and finish beyond Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves.

And when Falcao grabbed his second, beating two men before powering a shot in off the underside of the crossbar, Atletico looked on the brink of a Europa League final place.

But the gloss was taken off their excellent performance in stoppage time as Ricardo Costa headed into the net with practically the final touch of the game to hand Valencia a crucial second away goal.

In the night's other tie, Sporting Lisbon battled back from a goal down to ensure they will take a 2-1 lead to Spain in the second leg of their final four clash with Athletic Bilbao.

The visitors took the lead in Portugal when Jon Aurtenetxe turned home Markel Susaeta's cross from six yards out.

But Sporting got just reward for their dominance as they grabbed two goals in the final 15 minutes. Emiliano Insua brought the teams level with a header before Diego Capel lashed a shot into the bottom corner.

The Europa League final will be played in the Romanian capital Bucharest on May 9.

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