The red and white aftermath: Week 36

Atlético blow golden opportunity to control their own Champions League berth destiny

atletico madrid striker falcao and midfielder arda turan real sociedad

Arda and Falcao in disbelief on Wednesday

As if it wasn’t punishment enough to have to watch an insipid Atlético for 90 minutes only for them to epically collapse and allow their opponents to score an outright stupid goal in the dying minutes of the match, thereby bungling the clearest path to Champions League qualification for next season, the Rojiblanco faithful also had to experience how the rest of the evening of Spanish football unfolded: exactly how they had hoped prior to the start of proceedings against Real Sociedad at the Vicente Calderón on Wednesday.

Levante loss? Check. Málaga loss? Check. If you can take a peek at the Primera División standings right now and ponder on what could have been without breaking into a whimper, you’re a stronger man, or woman, than us here at AtléticoFans.

Oh, and just to pour some salt in the wound, our little neighbours ended the night proclaiming themselves league champions for the 32nd time in their history.

What was shaping up to be a colossal, almost semi-final of its own clash versus Málaga on Saturday, has now lost most, if not all, its lustre.

Post-game notes and quotes:

Simeone insists his men “will keep on fighting” for a Champions League spot
“We didn’t have a lot of goal scoring chances,” Atleti coach Diego Simeone said after the draw.

“The players are making a tremendous effort and are incredibly committed. Sometimes we can play better or worse. We kept working and in the second half we found the goal. We had it all wrapped up and in the last play they scored the equaliser.”

‘El Cholo’ told reporters that he found “an atmosphere of pain” in the locker room, because the players know “we’ve dropped four important points,” referring to the 2-2 tie in Seville against Betis last weekend in addition to this midweek draw.

The Argentine tactician insisted that “as long as there’s a possibility, we’re going to keep on fighting [for a Champions League spot]”.

Thank you Gabi, %$!@ you Gabi
As a Scottish Colchonero recently said, “It’s either sugar or shite with Atleti.” Our veteran canterano Gabi was a bit of both himself on Wednesday.

The Rojiblanco midfielder, who scored his third goal of the season with a cracking long-distance strike on our only shot on target of the evening, saw two yellows in less than five minutes and was given his marching orders, leaving his team-mates to protect a very slim lead with only 10 men.

It’s very hard to believe that the 28-year-old managed to bag 11 goals last season with Real Zaragoza.

With regard to the consequences of Gabi’s red card, Simeone said: “The dismissal adversely affected us because it prevented us from setting up the final minutes the way we would have wanted.”

Domínguez suffered the dropped points like a hardcore Atleti fan
Atleti’s homegrown vice-captain and central defender Álvaro Domínguez was visibly distraught after Carlos Vela’s shot hit the back of the net in stoppage time to erase our 1-0 lead.

The 22-year-old fell to his knees in agony and pressed his head against the Calderón grass, acutely aware of just how important the three points were, not only to our Champions League aspirations, but also to the hopes and dreams of the thousands of supporters in attendance and watching around the world. It was like the weight of the world had fallen on his shoulders.

“Not being able to sleep after matches kills me,” Domínguez wrote on Twitter later in the evening, clearly still beating himself up over the missed opportunity.

Other notes:

  • Gabi’s red card means he faces an automatic one-match ban to be served in our upcoming game against Málaga.
  • Koke was credited with the assist on Gabi’s goal. It was the Atleti youth product’s fourth assist of the year.
  • Arda was not booked on Wednesday, so the Turk remains at nine yellow cards, one away from suspension.
  • Atlético took their unbeaten streak to six games.
  • Surprisingly, La Real bested Atleti in the Shots on Target department by a 5 to 1 margin.

  • Yon

    I love Alvaro! If only everyone was as passionate!

    Hopefully we can improve the strength in depth for next season, or at least play the younger players early on in the season so we know if we can rely on them come this time next year if we have a lot of fixtures!

    Don’t care about the Malaga match anymore, just looking very much forward to Wednesday 🙂

  • ratchet

    Lets be honest CL is over. We all know it. Lets focus on that next season. Rest players againdt malaga.

  • Dircil

    winning the Europa League is the must thing we have to strive for now, the only savior for a very disappointed season!!!!

  • rojiblanco93

    If we win the Champions League are we automatically qualifed for CL ?

  • Javi Lozoya

    You mean the Europa League?. No, even if we win it we still don’t qualify for Champions League.

  • rojiblanco93

    Yeah sorry i meant the Europa League ! Its pretty much a fucked up competition than , less money , less prestige , less attention, this is more then useless and wasted time , we have a great squad and should fight against the best teams in Europe, and those teams are playing CL

  • Epoy

    The winner of Europa League should have an instant ticket to the Champion’s League group stage the next season…

  • Dan

    IF Atletico don’t finish in the top six then they need to win the Europa league to be back in that competition right?

  • Javi Lozoya

    Yea. If Atleti doesn’t actually finish in at least 6th place in the league then they’ll have to win the Europa League to play it again. Bilbao is playing the Europa League next season already since they’re in the Copa del Rey final. I think that since Athletic is qualified the 7th place in La Liga qualifies for the Europa League as well.

  • Sebyk

    @Dan: Yeah, exactly. One condition – if Athletic finishes sixth and better, seventh place would be enough.
    @Javi Lozoya: Not really – the seventh place would be a qualifying one only if Athletic finished in the table at a place ensuring the start in European cups (hence sixth and better)

  • Dan

    Gracias Javi, no its just the top six I read on the UEFA site. Only 7th happens when the team that wins the copa is ALSO in the champions.
    The only way its 7th place is if Athletic finish 5th or 6th which isnt going to happen now they give up on the league.

  • Javi Lozoya

    No problem man.