An embarrassing performance by the referee made for a spectacular match in a flooded Vicente Calderón tonight.
We hosted Espanyol in the first leg of our Copa del Rey encounter and took a narrow, but ultimately deserved, win over the team that beat us 3-2 not too long ago.
Fernández Borbalán had a huge influence on the final result today, awarding a non-existent penalty, sending off two players and missing a handful of obvious calls.
However the first noteworthy incident of the night was Diego Forlán’s injury. It was pouring all night and the soaked pitch was in terrible condition. Forlán injured his right ankle after he stepped on a bad part of the pitch and had to be taken off, with Diego Costa taking his place early on.
Early reports indicate the Uruguayan has a sprained ankle and will be out for at least two weeks.
A little later, an event that would be numerously repeated throughout the night followed. Sergio Agüero outpaced his direct opponents, but shot just wide of the far post.
The Argentine single-handedly drove Espanyol’s defence crazy all night, but was lacking a bit of fortune in his finishing as various attempts went just past the wrong side of the post.
On the other end Javi Márquez forced David de Gea to a save, while Osvaldo again proved to be a handful for Luis Perea.
But in the 33rd minute it was Atleti who took the lead. Reyes rifled a shot towards goal, but it was illegitimately blocked by Jordi Amat, who swung his hand back to stop the shot.
The foul was made outside the area, but a convinced Borbalán pointed towards the penalty spot.
Captain Simão sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and converted the penalty kick. It was the perfect way to say goodbye for the Portuguese, who played his final match for Atlético tonight.
In January he’ll join Besiktas, and when he was taken off late in the second half he received an enormous round of applause from the fans. Simão played 168 matches in red and white, scoring 32 total goals during his spell.
Shortly after the goal Osvaldo tested De Gea, but our young shotstopper came out victorious.
An incident in the 41st minute led to roaring indignation at the Calderón. José Antonio Reyes was fouled by Jesús Dátolo, who then smashed the ball into Reyes’ belly as he was down on the ground.
The Andalusian reacted furiously and headbutted the Argentine in the side of his chest. The referee sent Reyes off while the Espanyol player only received a yellow.
Of course it was foolish of our winger to let himself go, but it’s incomprehensible how Dátolo was allowed to stay on the pitch.
Just before half time Agüero got another opportunity to score after he skipped past two opponents inside the box, but he slipped just as he was about to fire and his shot went wide.
After the break Atlético tightened up in midfield and relied on Agüero to do the job up front. He did so magnificently, as he forced the defenders to many fouls.
This eventually lead to Víctor Ruiz’s sending off. The young centre back twice fouled Kun near the touch line and was sent packing with two yellow cards after 65 minutes.
Minutes earlier David de Gea pulled off a spectacular save when Osvaldo seemed to head home from a corner. The ball was going straight toward the top corner, but our Golden Boy at heart reacted with cat-like reflexes to make the stop, leaving us all mesmerized.
Goalkeeper Christián Álvarez from Espanyol needed his defenders to help him out. He missed his interception and saw how Álvaro Domínguez could have scored in front of an open goal, but a defender saved it on the goal line. Diego Costa then blocked the clearance, and the ball went sailing over the bar for a goalkick.
Two minutes later Agüero was tripped inside the box just as he was about to shoot, but the referee waved to play on. From the following counterattack Osvaldo was put through on goal, but his first touch let him down.
The remaining minutes of the match were filled with more opportunities from the amazing Agüero, while Osvaldo wildly shot wide of the target on the other end.
In the 83rd minute Raúl García came on to replace Simão, who left the pitch under a standing ovation from the crowd.
The game finished 1-0. Atlético now take a little vacation and return to play on 3 January, when we face Racing at home.
The second leg of our cup tie with Espanyol follows three days later.
Line-up: De Gea; Ujfalusi, Perea, Domínguez, Filipe; Reyes, Tiago, Assunção, Simão (“83 Raúl García); Forlán (“14 Diego Costa) and Agüero (“90 Fran Mérida).
Goals: 1-0 Simão (p.k.) (“33)