They are a part of life and, more importantly, they are a part of being an Atlético fan.
Los Rojiblancos were riding a tidal wave of momentum heading into their encounter at the Ciutat de València on Sunday, but they were abruptly stymied by an early mishap, some outrageous goalkeeping by Keylor Navas and a suspiciously motivated home side, eventually falling by a score of 2-0.
Nearly a third of Levante’s stadium had been invaded by Atlético fans who had made the trek over from Madrid, but their strong backing wasn’t enough to inspirit a comeback.
Meanwhile, Levante, a team that had only one win in their previous nine matches, were apparently inspired by the promise of a big payout.
According to Cadena SER, Real Madrid dangled €2 million before les Granotes to be split among the squad should they defeat los Colchoneros.
Our hosts fought for every ball as if they were Super Mario Bros. coins. Navas, in particular, wasn’t going to let wads of cash slip through his hands.
But perhaps Florentino Pérez should have offered his own men some bonuses.
Los Blancos just barely survived to salvage a point (and possibly their own title aspirations) in the last gasps of their bout against Valencia.
The Rojiblanco faithful found themselves in the awkward and, frankly, dirty situation of celebrating Cristiano Ronaldo’s stoppage time equaliser versus los Che, a strike that kept Barcelona at bay.
How does that help us, you ask? Well, should we defeat Málaga and Real Madrid win their remaining three games, a Barça victory over Atleti in the final match day would grant the Merengues the league title.
The Culés would never compromise their precious valors and prevent their archnemeses from getting their hands on the league trophy, right? Wink, wink.
The way the title hunt stands following the rumble at the top of the table this weekend — Atleti lost and Barcelona and Real Madrid both drew — is that Diego Simeone’s men only need four points to clinch La Liga.
Real need to win their last three matches and hope for Atleti to lose at least one. Barça have to win both of their games and need Real to either tie or lose any of their final three games.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone: “This loss is the best thing that could have happened to us”
“They found the goal quickly and defended well,” Diego Simeone said after his squad’s fourth defeat in La Liga this season.
“The goalkeeper had a great performance and we tried all different ways to find the equaliser that would have made us more comfortable, but we couldn’t. Their second goal came at a time in which we controlled the run of play, and we had the desire to create chances throughout the whole match.”
Simeone continued: “This is the best thing that could have happened to us, because it will make us live out these next three weeks in our sporting careers with Atlético Madrid with high intensity, a lot of excitement and pure football.
“It’s the perfect moment, in which we will see who the real men and footballers are. It’s time to live three fantastic weeks.
“When I said La Liga was boring it started getting exciting.”
Captain Gabi wants no drama in Rojiblanco land
“I’m proud of the team,” Atleti skipper Gabi told reporters after the game.
“We’ve tried all sorts of ways today. Their best player was their goalie. We have to keep working and, next Sunday, there will be another final.”
He continued: “We’re hurt, but we can’t get all dramatic about it, because we have the privilege of depending on ourselves. Now, more than ever, I believe in this team. I’m not good at some other things, but I’m good with numbers, and if we win the next two games, we’re champions.
“We hadn’t won anything before, and we haven’t lost anything now. Everything gets nicer now. It’s always taken so much to get to where we are. No one has given us anything.
“On Sunday, we have an important game to play so that we can take part in our last final in the Camp Nou, and we will try to win no matter what it takes.”
- Sunday’s defeat was only Atleti’s sixth in all competitions this season. Gregorio Manzano’s last spell at Atlético produced that many losses before the end of November.
- Atleti’s starting back line will once again be incomplete next weekend when we host Málaga, as Diego Godín saw his 10th yellow of the campaign against Levante. The Uruguayan will be forced to serve an automatic one-game suspension for the final home game of the season.
- Raúl García, with nine yellows, is one shy of missing our final league match against Barcelona.
- Levante’s Papakouli Diop was, very shamefully, the victim of racism on the part of a group of Atleti fans. In response to the monkey chants and even some gestures that were caught on camera, the Senegalese midfielder began to dance in front of the Rojiblanco contingent. He explained the situation afterward like so: “It’s an issue that has affected me a lot. I went to take a corner and part of the Atlético support began doing monkey chants. To take the heat out of the situation, I started to dance, but I didn’t insult anyone. I don’t have anything against the Atlético supporters because it was only a section of their support that shouted at me. I think it’s disrespectful that it happens at all stadiums. It’s a provocation. I don’t know if it can be called racism, but the monkey chanting has to be stopped now.“