Atlético will hope they used up the very last bit of their allotted bad luck for the season on Sunday, as los Rojiblancos were unfortunate to fall to the newly-crowned champions of La Liga.
An own goal by captain Gabi handed Barcelona a, perhaps, undeserved 2-1 comeback victory.
The stronger side for the vast majority of a mellow encounter, Atleti let their one-goal lead — courtesy of Falcao — slip late when circumstances to pull off the upset seemed most favourable.
Having shut down the Blaugrana’s daunted, Messi-led attack for most of the night, it was when our foes seemed most vulnerable that we let our guard down.
With a little over 20 minutes left on the clock, the four-time winner of the FIFA Player of the Year award limped off the pitch with a hamstring injury, leaving Tito Villanova’s men with 10 players and no substitutions left.
Belying their supposed Messidependencia, Barcelona struck back almost immediately after their megastar had hit the showers–beleaguered forward Alexis Sánchez netting the equaliser moments later.
Atleti maintained their advantage in numbers though, but caught a bad break when Gabi redirected a well-off-target shot into his own goal in the 80th minute.
The self-inflicted wound proved to be a decisive one, as Diego Simeone’s men failed to recover–handing Barça a token three points to embellish their total.
But thousands of Atlético fans stuck around at the Vicente Calderón for over half an hour after the defeat in a spirited sending-off of our idols ahead of Friday’s Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid.
Nothing can shake our resolve.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone frustrated with the loss
“It was a slow-paced match in which possession was sought after more than attacking was,” Atleti boss Diego Simeone began in his post-game press conference.
“Up until the goal, I think the team did well. We managed the game, worked hard, doing well on the pitch. After the goal we were unable to finish two chances.
“You leave angry because we should’ve won.”
On Gabi’s own goal that ended up deciding the game, Simeone said: “It’s a game-play situation. Gabi is our captain and is having a marvelous season. Let’s see if he scores one in the opposing goal on Friday.”
‘El Cholo’ voiced his appreciation for the Rojiblanco faithful that stuck around well after the final whistle had blown.
“The fans are marvelous,” he said.
“The stadium was packed and was very colourful, but what counts is what we do on the field. The match in itself invites the players’ self-motivation. We’ll focus, in the best way possible, on a different game, a special game.”
Falcao keeps banging them in amid rampant speculation about his future
For the second time this season, a Radamel Falcao strike to break the deadlock against Barcelona gave way to a Culé comeback.
‘El Tigre’ pounced on a plucky pass by Gabi inside the box, toe-poking the ball past Pinto in the 51st minute.
It was the Colombian’s 34th goal of the campaign (28th in La Liga), giving him six in the last six games.
The goal happened to be the 1,000th of the present edition of La Liga.
It looks increasingly more likely that we are witnessing the prolific striker’s final days in red and white, with Sky Sports Italy reporter Gianluca Di Marzio claiming, on Sunday night, that Falcao will travel to Monte Carlo on Monday to put pen to paper on his new contract with Monaco.
That news comes on the heels of multiple reports in Spain suggesting the lethal attacker had indeed agreed to join the Principality outfit.
Tiago is the number one fan of the number one fans
Famous for having shed some tears at the Camp Nou following Atleti’s 2-0 defeat to Sevilla in the 2009/10 edition of the King’s Cup final — and no, not because we lost but, rather, because the Rojiblanco faithful remained in their seats chanting in full force throughout the award ceremony, Tiago was once again impressed by the loyalty of Atleti supporters.
“This only happens here,” he said.
“This fan base is spectacular and we appreciate that strength they transmit to us for the final. The truth is, it touches our hearts and we’ll see on Friday if we can give them something to be happy about.”
The former Juventus man replaced Mario Suárez in the starting XI, and felt that “Barcelona didn’t do much to win this game”.
The midfielder continued: “In the end, you leave sad because we’ve lost and we know we could have won given that Barcelona did very little to take the three points.
“We’ve given it our best. The team played well and created chances. I think we had a chance to make it 2-0, but we failed to capitalise.
“We ended up paying too high of a price in this game,” the former Portugal international concluded.
- Gabi picked up his fourth assist of the campaign (third in La Liga) on Falcao’s goal, but will likely never forget the assist he provided Barcelona. ‘El Capi’s’ own goal was too harsh a blow for him given his otherwise stellar performance.
- Back-up left-back Emiliano Insúa took the place of a rested Filipe Luís to make his first start ever at Atlético, and completed his first full-game with his new club. “The truth is, I felt very good, a little tired at the end, but I was okay,” the Argentine-born defender said. “What I wanted was to have some minutes again and I was able to enjoy them today.“
- With two league games left on the schedule, Gabi (nine), Diego Godín (nine), Tiago (four) and Raúl García (four), are all one yellow card away from a one-match suspension.
- Possibly in a bid to mitigate some of the negative press regarding Falcao’s seemingly likely exit, club president Enrique Cerezo told Canal Plus Liga on Sunday: “We’re negotiating [for Diego Ribas], but there’s no agreement yet.“
- Los Colchoneros have lost 10 straight games to Real Madrid and, now, 6 straight to Barça–their worst streaks ever against both of Spain’s giants.
- Atlético goalkeeper Joel, on loan at Wigan, picked up his first major title as a starter in an epic upset of Manchester City on Saturday in the FA Cup final. The Atleti youth product made eight saves, one against former teammate Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero, as his English club won the tournament for the first time in their history.