The Final of the Copa del Rey ended up being everything you may expect from a Madrid derby. Atleti came into the final not having beaten their crosstown rivals for 14 years, and the last time it happened for them was when their current coach was in the 18. Diego Simeone deserves loud praise for what he’s done with this team in the last 17 months – 3 trophies and Champions League Qualification.
Simeone went into this match trying to get the upperhand in the mental games by announcing the starting XI a day before. Did it have an effect? Some may say yes, but Jose Mourinho’s antics may have had an even bigger one as he made himself the spotlight in the second half, eventually getting himself tossed and leaving Real leaderless and lost. Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t do his side any favors by getting a straight red card for “kicking” Gabi in the face. Some say it was written in the stars, especially after Real hit the woodwork not once, not twice, but three times. The Atletico goalkeeper Courtois probably had the game of his life, making a point blank reaction save (among countless others) to deny Ozil. Simeone’s teams are coached to never give up, and it was clearly evident in this match.
Atletico lined up in a 4-4-2, placing both Falcao and Diego Costa up top. Falcao tucked in underneath Costa fairly frequently in the 10 spot, and it was from that position Falcao threaded the sensational pass to set up Costa and Atleti’s first goal. Real went with Mourinho’s common 4-2-3-1 formation with Benzema the lone striker up top. Atletico played tight defense, but Real controlled the game for the large majority up to extra time. Gabi and Suarez did well to move the ball through the center for the Rojiblancos when they had; it was important because it allowed Atleti to keep the ball and get it wide. They both also did well to cover the back line of Atletico. However, Real was simply better in the middle, and with superior numbers and talent they could control the game.
Even with this control, it just wasn’t Real’s night. Though they may have had superiority in the middle, Benzema was a ghost for much of the match and had very few chances. Ronaldo fared a little better, scoring the opening goal on a brilliant and purely athletic header from a corner. After that the only other real highlight for him was his free kick that he pounded off the post. It was cheeky play, deciding to slide the ball under the wall instead of curl it over, and it almost worked. Alonso and Khedira kept committing fouls, which was frustrating for them and gave Atletico great chances.
In the 35th minute, after receiving the ball near the midway line Falcao danced his way through Albiol, holding off the pressure, and slipping the ball through to Diego Costa with perfect accuracy. Costa buried it, evening the score. It was a brilliant piece of work from both players, and set the mood for Atleti for the rest of the match giving them added confidence that they could hang around with their rivals.
The match stayed 1-1 until the end. The second half was full of fouls and yellow cards for both sides, which led to furry on the sidelines. Mourinho was tossed, leaving his team in the lurch. A small brawl also broke out on the sidelines as tempers flared. Iker Casillas showed true class, stepping up in Mourinho’s absence to break up fights and encourage his side. Late in the match the momentum swung in massive favor of Atletico, and they had a host of chances to win the match before the end of regulation. Real was tired and had to be cautious with much of the team sitting on yellows. Atletico exploited Real in the wider areas of the pitch, especially down their left. Arda Turan was brilliant for Atleti down that side giving Essien all sorts of trouble. Filipe Luis did well too, overlapping Turan when he cut in to provide added width.
Atletico Madrid were wise with their fouls, not only in committing them but also in gaining them. They were fairly even for both sides, with 25 committed by Atleti and 21 by Real. In this aspect, both Gabi and Suarez were spectacular in the middle. Especially during the second half and into extra time when Real Madrid became frustrated at the deadlock, which played into Atleti’s hands. Ronaldo eventually let his frustrations get the better of him in extra time and was sent off, of which Gabi played a major role.
Surprisingly, there were no subs made in regular time. This was Reals mistake more than Atleti’s, since Real’s bench is deeper than Atleti’s and they were also more tired. Atletico continued to apply pressure with Falcao and Costa up top up until the 105th minute, when Costa was switched out for Adrian, who did very little by way of work. Real made all 3 of their subs in the 91st minute, with Modric, Coentrao, and Benzema coming off for Di Maria, Arbeloa, and Higuain respectively. It should be mentioned that Modric played his role in the middle very well, placing himself in good positions and not getting frustrated. Real’s subs did not have the full effect desired, and soon went down a man in the 115th when Ronaldo was sent off.
In the 97th minute Atleti had a great chance when Gabi almost got on to the end of a Turan chip, but Essien headed it away at the last possible second for an Atleti corner. Koke took the corner, which was easily cleared by Real right back to him out wide. He then lobbed it back in where Miranda flicked it on and into the net for the game winner. From then on, it was 11 men behind the ball for Atletico. Gabi was sent off in the 119th minute but it hardly mattered as the Rojiblancos held on for the win over their crosstown rivals.
Overall it was a solid effort from both teams. Had Real put in an effort but lost the plot late on. The flaring of tempers didn’t help them either, although some how each side ended up with the same amount of cards (7). Jose Mourinho was not impressed and called it his ‘worst match ever’ after the game, but he’ll likely be moving on to pastures new, and perhaps that’s for the best. He’s all but lost the locker room.
On the other hand, Atletico signed Simeone up for another several seasons this week, which is much deserved for the manager. It will be interesting to see how they handle the Champions League with Falcao and others rumored to leave. Regardless, it was all left on the pitch in this match and Atletico take home a historic win for themselves and their fans.