FOX Soccer Exclusive
Atletico win steals spotlight from Real
Jose Mourinho’s likely last game on the Real Madrid bench ended in disaster, with Cristiano Ronaldo sent off in disgrace as city neighbors Atletico Madrid won a thrilling Copa del Rey final 2-1 in extra-time at the Santiago Bernabeu.
For the more than 30,000 Atletico fans inside the ground, it was joy unconfined as their La Liga side overcame the concession of an early Ronaldo header to control the game and deservedly win through goals from Diego Costa and Miranda.
Mourinho’s reign, which began with him being in charge of bringing the longed-for “decima” European Cup to the Bernabeu, is surely over now. Aristocratic Madrid have spent almost €500m in transfers in the last four seasons – compared to Atletico who are well over €400 million in debt. But Atletico manager Diego Simeone has instilled heart and guts aplenty into his side, and their first derby win in almost 14 years was well deserved.
''This is my worst season. I have never not won an important title. You can say I failed this season,'' Mourinho said. ''With one final, a semifinal, a second-place finish, and a Spanish Supercup, for many other coaches it would have been a good season. For me it's the worst.'
The internal issues which have dogged the Madrid dressing-room all season were symbolized pregame by club captain Iker Casillas - who has won all six finals in his career, including World Cup and European Championships - sitting on the bench. Fellow previous first teamer Pepe was left out of the match squad altogether after recently criticizing the “Special One” in public.
Atletico coach Simeone went with the lineup he revealed on Thursday, and their fans were out in force too. 30,000 Colchonero fans were inside the ground early, and made deafening noise as their side took the field. Madrid’s more reserved regulars took their time to arrive, and settled comfortably and quietly into their seats.
Atletico tipped-off with intent, with Arda Turan driving straight at the Madrid defense as if to say “we're not scared.” Not all of his teammates looked so assured however, and they paid for their nervousness in just 14 minutes. Midfielder Mario Suarez was robbed by Karim Benzema, leading to a Madrid corner. Luka Modric took the kick and Ronaldo rose unhindered by supposed marker Diego Godin to power a header past Thibaut Courtois. Ronaldo slotted his seventh in the competition.
Atletico looked shocked for a moment but quickly recovered their composure and tried to hit-back, and with their Turkish playmaker Turan looking the most creative player on the pitch, began to dominate possession. With midfielder Xabi Alonso under wraps, Madrid were unable to keep the ball and take pressure off. They gave up possession and allowed Radamel Falcao to turn and play in Costa, who fired hard and low across Diego Lopez from inside the area.
The goal stung Madrid into action and Ozil hit the post with a 20 yard volley minutes later, but it was the Atletico fans that were happier at the break with their chants ringing around the Bernabeu.
The Atletico coach was prowling the sideline again as the second half began, while Mourinho remained out of sight on the bench. Madrid - looking disjointed and badly coached - almost conceded at a simple set piece, but Falcao’s touch let him down.
Madrid showed their quality at the other end, but luck deserted them. Ronaldo crossed and Benzema prodded the ball off the post, Ozil picked up the rebound and did everything right, beat the keeper, but Juanfran incredibly cleared off the line. Then Ronaldo’s clever free kick beat the wall, but for a third time the post saved Atletico.
''It isn't normal to hit the post three times,'' said Mourinho. ''You don't have to be an expert to think that the result wasn't fair, that Atletico isn't the just winner. But in football all that is forgotten, the posts, the referee, and Atletico goes down the winner.''
Los Blancos' frustration grew, as referee Carlos Clos Gomez gave a series of correct decisions in Atletico’s favor. Ozil was booked for throwing the ball away in frustration, while Mourinho made his first appearance off the bench of the night, and took his protests too far and was banished to the stands by the official. Ronaldo was then booked for further moans as tension built on the pitch and in the stands. Atletico forced three corners in injury time, but Gomez whistled and we had 30 more minutes to play.
Madrid made a - trademark Mourinho style - triple change, but it was Atletico who came on strong. It was now all or nothing for Madrid, and Atletico keeper Thibaut Courtois made two spectacular saves to keep his side ahead. Inside the first fifteen minutes of extra time, Miranda nipped ahead of the keeper to glance Koke’s superb cross to the net to give Atletico an eventual 2-1 victory.
They were almost home when Ronaldo saw a straight red for kicking out at Atletico captain Gabi. This sparked a melee on the touchline with Costa and Pepe to the fore, while Courtois needed attention after apparently being hit by an object thrown from stands.
It was an ugly climax to a fascinating game. Atletico’s joyous fans did not care as Gabi received the cup from and held it aloft for the fans to see. ''This is for our fans that have suffered for 14 years,'' Atletico's captain said moments before he received the trophy from Spain's King Juan Carlos.
''We had the good fortune that a champion needs,'' said Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who added the cup to the Europa League title won last year. ''What these players have done for the past year and a half is amazing. I don't have words for it.''
Madrid’s supporters had long left their home ground, traipsing away disappointed to reflect on what was a pretty fitting end to Mourinho’s controversial, but ultimately unsuccessful three years at the Bernabeu.
FOXSoccer.com's news wire services were used in this report.