Atlético were unable to hold onto victory after a spirited comeback effort against Real Madrid that had all the electricity of a heavyweight prize fight.
Los Rojiblancos went down first and quickly on Sunday, but sprung back up to deliver a pair of mighty blows of their own.
Atleti had their archrivals’ backs firmly pressed against the ropes, but let them evade the fatal blow and salvage a point with a late equaliser.
While our heroes on the pitch fought valiantly in spite of their early setback, the stars of this latest edition of the Madrid Derby undoubtedly were the Atlético fans in attendance at the Vicente Calderón.
United 55,000 strong, the Rojiblanco faithful paid tribute to their battle-ready warriors with a stadium-wide red and white mosaic that included an excerpt from the club’s anthem; specifically, the part that reads: Porque luchan como hermanos, defendiendo sus colores (“They fight as brothers, defending their colours”).
That’s what the ‘Big Two’ and their fans will never get–we live and breathe our stripes.
We don’t depend on wins and trophies.
We will always be there for our club.
So, when Karim Benzema poked home the early opener, the party was just getting started at the Castle of Cholo.
Unperturbed, the best supporters in the world only got louder before erupting into ecstasy when Koke smashed in the equaliser.
Sheer euphoria ensued following Gabi’s long-range missile just before the break that put us ahead 2-1.
Cristiano’s goal to level the scoreline certainly dampened the mood a bit, but the celebrations carried on–porque siempre la afición, se estremece con pasión (“because the fans always roar with passion”).
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone: “We are still alive”
“The result is what it is,” Diego Simeone, sporting a freshly-buzzed back-to-the-roots haircut, told reporters during his post-game press conference.
“I don’t know if it’s a fair one or not. We had chances to win it, but what counts is the final result.
“We’ve shown that we are alive, though that may bother some.”
On suggestions by his counterpart Carlo Ancelotti that Atleti were “rough” and “violent”, Simeone refused to jump into the fray.
“It’s an opinion offered by the opposing manager, and I respect it.”
The Argentine manager also neglected to comment on Carlos Delgado Ferreiro’s officiating.
The referee, who has never presided over a Real loss in over 10 assignments, missed a huge penalty call early in the first half when Sergio Ramos recklessly challenged Diego Costa inside the box.
“The team had a great reaction to [the opening] goal. They started to play, pressure, and they created chances in the first half,” Simeone said.
“In the second half, we began well. Marcelo and Carvajal’s entries gave our opponents a boost. We couldn’t find that final pass on some of our counterattacks, especially one by Gabi. We could’ve closed it out and have gone up 3-1, but their goal arrived.
“We did a great job. I’m proud of this squad. They were men that took on everything.”
Koke strike sparks the revival
‘The Resurrector’, Jorge Resurreción Merodio, better known as Koke, was just as surprised to find himself alone, completely unmarked inside the box, as Real were.
Teammate Arda, skillfully holding onto the ball while under pressure, displayed tremendous presence of mind to spin around and instantly find him.
Koke received the Turk’s pass, picked his spot and unleashed a low drive to the far post–picking up his 5th goal of the campaign (all scored in La Liga).
Must have felt good for the kid, who was born with more red and white blood cells than most, to stick it to the Merengues. He celebrated his strike with a fury.
We’re talking about the young man who memorably planted, knelt down before and kissed the Atleti flag in the Bernabéu centre-circle after our Copa triumph.
The Atleti idol later went on to notch his 13th overall assist in the current term (10th in La Liga).
Gabi’s blast sends the Calderón into delirium
Atlético captain Gabi stunned the football world with what probably surpassed Diego Costa’s bicycle-kick effort against Getafe as Atleti’s goal of the season.
With less than a minute to go in the first half, our beloved skipper launched an absolute rocket from almost 40 yards out that Diego López failed to even get his fingers on.
The rumbling vibrations that followed from within the Calderón were reportedly felt in China.
Gabi now has 2 goals to go along with his career best 10 assists this season.
Not bad for a former goalkeeper.
“I leave with a bitter taste in my mouth because of the draw in the end, but I’m very proud of Atlético Madrid,” the Atleti youth academy product told Canal Plus.
“It’s been a very open game, with chances for both teams. We’ll keep fighting to stay up top.”
Filipe complains of unfairness in La Liga
“It is of no one’s interest for Atlético to be up top,” Atleti left-back Filipe Luís said in the mixed zone after the clash.
“They want us out of there. It’s tough for some to see us there. I’m not talking about the refereeing. People don’t want Atleti to be there. People want La Liga to continue being uneven with so many millions in difference between those up top, while the ones down low progressively have less money to sign players.”
The Brazilian continued: “They, with all their matches in the Copa [del Rey] and Champions [League], were able to bring on their 40 or 50 million [euro] substitutes.
“We, with our humility and being a team that has played the same amount of matches, in the end, of course, had a dip. But in the end, the team, with humility and hard work, is there.”
- Arda’s assist on Koke’s goal was his 5th on the campaign. The Turk hit the woodwork with a header in the second half that was inches away from sealing the deal for Atleti.
- Both Juanfran and Mario Suárez have now suited up in red and white 100 times in league play. Juanfran remains a highly-regarded member of the team among fans, while Mario was the subject of scorn thanks to his blunder that led to Cristiano’s devastating equaliser.
- Cholo only used one substitution, and it came very late into this grueling fixture. It’s not unusual for Simeone to end a bout without having exhausted all three of his subs, but it was a bit surprising on Sunday given the effort put in by his squad to keep Real Madrid’s fierce attack at bay. Perhaps not having his trusty sidekick ‘Mono’ Burgos, dismissed a little after the hour mark, at his side, led to his reluctance to tinker with his line-up.
- Looming suspensions for Celta match: Arda, Costa and Godín were all booked for the fifth time this season and are, tentatively, suspended for our trip to Vigo. Costa’s card is perhaps the most appealable of the three, as he was shown yellow for a dive in spite of contact by Arbeloa. It will be nice to count on his availability against Celta, especially given our recent troubles away from Madrid. Godín was carded for flinging his head back at Pepe’s face and, though (unfortunately) he didn’t make solid contact as he intended, the ‘Portuguese Booger Launcher’ proceeded to make a late bid for an Oscar, ridiculously sending himself flying backwards to the ground.
- Miranda, Filipe, Tiago and Mario all remain on four yellows.
- Atleti haven’t defeated Real at the Calderón in 15 consecutive matches.
- Mono ‘One Too Many’ Burgos, according to Delgado Ferreiro’s official report, was expelled in the 65th minute for repeatedly protesting the ref’s decisions. “He didn’t say anything to the referee before the mess; he lost his temper afterwards,” Simeone explained in his presser. It was quite a sight to see the burly Burgos having to be subdued by Atleti’s entire coaching staff, including Cholo. Delgado Ferreiro probably wet his bed last night.