It’s the end of another year, and what a year it has been for Atlético. After our title winning heroics of last season, we began August knowing that we needed a fast start if we were to retain the crown we had lifted only 3 months earlier. Arthur Guisasola reflects on the first half of our title defence, and quest to reach the promised land of the Champions League final again.
The 88th minute. Raúl García scores the equaliser at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Just three days later, star-signing Mario Mandzukic scores his first goal for Atlético in the second minute of the Super Cup against Real Madrid.
The title may not be a very prestigious one, but it’s always a nice feeling to beat Madrid especially in a two-legged affair.
However, the league did not start as brilliantly as colchoneros had hoped. Simeone was sent off for slapping a referee – eight-match suspension for the coach. A 0-0 draw in Vallecas against Rayo and a narrow 2-1 victory against freshly promoted Eibar. The team was under serious pressure against the Basque side, but still managed to hold out. The victory had come from goals “al balón parado”. Set-piece goals.
The team was playing poorly, but they were winning – the press didn’t like that. Articles appear ranting that set-piece goals aren’t ‘good’ goals and that Atlético was cheating.
During the period of relatively poor play, due to the unfamiliarity between Mandzukic and Griezmann and the lack of Simeone on the sideline, the Madrid derby had come. The third in just a month, Atlético won 2-1 away thanks to a set-piece goal, of course, scored by Tiago and then a wonderful strike by Arda. Colchoneros were happy.
In the past three derbies, Atleti won two and drawn the other—the Simeone effect.
While our rivals scored from penalties, we scored from set-pieces; the term “penalticorner,” was coined. We didn’t care. We were winning and angering everyone in the process. The Atleti way. “Ganamos y eso molesta a los demás”. We win and that angers everyone.
Since the third derby match of the year, the team has slowly been producing better play. Bar some shock losses to Real Sociedad, Villarreal and Valencia, the team has been playing well and the team from last season is coming to life.
The Champions League campaign started off in horrible fashion; Olympiacos defeated Atleti 3-2 in Greece. “Frenazo,” a huge halt.
Doubts were arising as if Atleti would be able to qualify from the group of Champions. They didn’t concede another goal.
After beating Juventus, Malmö (twice) and Olympiacos, Atleti topped their group, finishing with 13 points and a goal difference of 11. Bayer Leverkusen is the round-of-16 rival.
14 goals. Mario Mandzukic has already scored 14 official goals this season. Griezmann has already scored nine and after his brilliant performance against Athletic Club – he netted a hat trick – Atleti fans are eager to see him score more and more.
The team is sitting comfortably in third with 35 points and has a four-point cushion over Valencia. Few fans would expect the team to win the league again and to sit in third is a great position after 16 matches.
After the final match of the year against Athletic Club in San Mamés, Cholo had a few words about the wonderful year.
“An amazing 2014 has ended. I would like to thank the players for the great year, but you can always improve,” said Cholo.
Griezmann explained how Cholo managed to help the team switch their mentality in the San Mamés after a terrible first half and trailing one nil.
“Simeone told us to enjoy and give everything we had so that we could end the year on a good note. A year that has been fantastic.”
2014 closed out with rumours that Fernando Torres is close to making a return to the club he captained as a boy. It’s the dream end to a dream year for Atléticos.
2015 will start off with a league fixture against Levante and then a round-of-16 cup draw against Real Madrid. A few years ago, Atleti fans knew that we would have lost, but now. Now, times have changed.