ATLETICO Madrid moved a step closer to their second Europa League final in three years as two goals from Radamel Falcao and further strikes from Miranda and Adrian Lopez gave them a 4-2 win over Spanish rivals Valencia in last night's semi-final first leg.
The hosts started brightly and could have been ahead even earlier as Diego Alves saved from Diego and Adrian before the latter showed great persistence to set Falcao up for the easiest of headers to open the scoring on 18 minutes.
Valencia equalised in first-half stoppage time as Jonas swept home Adil Rami's knockdown.
However, 2010 Europa League winners Atletico scored twice in nine minutes, as Miranda took advantage of some slack marking to head home Diego's free-kick before Adrian slotted past Alves from a narrow angle.
Falcao looked to have all but sealed Atletico's place in the final in Bucharest with a sensational strike from outside the area that went in off the bar 12 minutes from time, but Ricardo Costa headed home from another corner with virtually the last touch of the game to give Valencia some hope heading into the return leg at the Mestalla.
In the second semi-final, Sporting Lisbon netted twice in the last 15 minutes against Athletic Bilbao to earn a 2-1 lead to take across the Iberian peninsula for the second leg.
Athletic took a 54th-minute lead through Jon Aurtenetxe but Sporting drew level through Emiliano Insua before the impressive Diego Capel -- a Spain international -- drilled home the match-winner 10 minutes from time to down his hard-working countrymen.