Atletico Madrid defied a succession of Real Madrid chances as well as recent history to defeat their illustrious city rivals for the first time in 13 years and lift the Copa del Rey with a 2-1 extra-time victory at the Bernabeu.
An incredible 25 matches has gone by since Atletico had a win in the derby. It was a streak that looked set to continue when Cristiano Ronaldo headed Madrid in front early on. Yet, Atletico hit back before the break through Diego Costa and, when Madrid struck the woodwork three times prior to a string of outstanding saves from Thibaut Courtois, there appeared to be a sense of destiny about the night. And that’s exactly how it proved as Miranda headed home a winner for Diego Simeone’s resolute side eight minutes into extra time.
For Madrid, their tumultuous season ended in perhaps fittingly ignominious circumstances with defeat being compounded by Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo both being sent off. Indeed, the match had descended into a fractious affair with Gabi following Ronaldo in seeing red in extra time. In what looks all-but certain to be his final season with Madrid, Mourinho will finish the campaign empty handed. The emotions are reversed for an Atletico side that end a season in which their pride has been restored by Simeone with a trophy and bragging rights in the Spanish capital for the first time in many a year.
As they did for the vast majority of the encounter, it was Madrid that had the better of the opening exchanges with Atletico sitting back. There was little in the way of a threat on goal, though, until Ronaldo popped up with his 55th goal of another incredible season.
From Mesut Ozil’s in-swinging corner in the 14th minute, Ronaldo escaped the attentions of his marker Diego Godin before rising comfortably above Radamel Falcao and planting a typically powerful header past Courtois.
To their credit, Atletico gradually established a foothold in the contest and, despite showing little attacking impetus, they made the most of the first chance that came their way with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Falcao, so often the one applying the finishing touch, this time played provider as he held off two Madrid players with his back to goal inside his own half before turning and playing an astute through ball to get his forward partner away. Diego Costa breezed past Essien into the box prior to finishing with a clinical low left-footed shot back across Lopez.
The goal reawakened Madrid and Mourinho’s side could have gone into the interval in front. Mesut Ozil’s shot from the edge of the box was hit with exemplary technique and looked destined for the back of the net but came back off the inside of the post.
Although Atletico threatened at the start of the second half when Filipe Luis volleyed wide, the momentum was almost entirely in Madrid’s favor after the break. The recently deposed Spanish champions created a succession of chances, but fortune continued to favor their so often down-trodden opponents.
Karim Benzema became the second man to test the foundations of the goal as he struck the inside of the post following Ronaldo’s deflected pull-back. Perhaps even more incredibly, from the rebound Juanfran produced an outstanding goal-line clearance to deny Mesut Ozil.
If there was a sense of disbelief that the ball stayed out on that occasion, Madrid’s frustration would only heighten minutes later. From just outside the box, Ronaldo cleverly struck a free-kick under the jumping wall, but for the third time in the evening, Madrid were kept out by the width of the post. From the rebound, Michael Essien should have done better than firing over.
With Madrid continuing to pressure and their opponents continuing to hang on, the match became increasingly tetchy. It was Mourinho’s frustration that first reached boiling point as he bounced theatrically from his dugout to protest another foul given against his side and referee Clos Gomez saw fit to send the Portuguese boss to the stands for whatever was said in his direction.
The match descended into a succession of stoppages in the closing minutes of regulation time with little quality on show. The action was summed up by Ronaldo, who was lucky to have stayed on the pitch as long as he did having twice kicked out at opponents off the ball.
Right before extra time, Atletico began to get on the front foot for the first time all half and they carried that momentum into extra time.
Diego Costa had a clear chance to put his side ahead, but unlike earlier in the evening this time his finish lacked conviction as he shot tamely at Lopez. But unlike Madrid, Atletico would make their pressure count.
After delivering another in a long line of poor corners, the ball came back to Koke for a second chance and this time he produced a teasing near-post delivery that allowed Miranda to get across ahead of Lopez and direct it into the net.
Unsurprisingly, Madrid came back in search of an equalizer, but now it was Courtois that kept them at bay with sensational saves, first from substitute Gonzalo Higuain and then even more brilliantly from Ozil.
The final minutes were not ones for the purist as Ronaldo finally saw red for aiming a boot in the face of Gabi and the Atletico midfielder completed the heavy list of cautions by receiving his second yellow card with seconds remaining.
Yet the unsavory aspects of some of the encounter will have little impact on the joy of Atletico as they lift the Copa del Rey for the 10th time in their history.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.