Feature Photo: Reuters
What a start, gentlemen! What a game! The European football season officially kicked off yesterday with a new edition of El Derbi Madrileño between Real and Atlètico. The Colchoneros stunned their more famous city rivals, and prevailed 4-2 after extra time to capture the UEFA Super Cup 2018.
Luka Modric attended the event still wearing a camiseta blanca, even if starting from the bench, and despite the insistent rumors that have been putting him close to Inter in the recent weeks. Cristiano Ronaldo, on the other hand, must have watched the show sitting on the couch of his brand-new home in Turin, as he prepares to make his debut with Juventus this coming Saturday.
The 43rd edition of the UEFA Super Cup played in Tallinn, Estonia, was a clash of titans and gladiators. Real Madrid called, but Atlético roared and answered louder, finally managing to overcome their hated neighbors in a European match after losing to them three times in the last five years.
Both sides came loaded with heavy artillery, but the absence of CR7 showed a clear gap among the Blancos lines and their spirit. Atlètico’s Diego Costa promptly noticed that, and made the best out of his very first chance, scoring the fastest goal in the history of the Super Cup after just 51 seconds. A red flag for Real’s new coach Julen Lopetegui.
Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema, the best among Real Madrid’s lines, took their side by the hand and pulled out the Blancos’ immediate reaction, which pushed Atlètico back into their defensive third for the first 20 minutes. Real thus collected multiple scoring occasions, including a spectacular one by Marco Asensio – who went close to beat Jan Oblak with a heel kick. Strikers Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa suddenly run out of ammunition, while Diego Godin dug a trench on the back to organize Atlètico’s resistance.
Which lasted until the 26th minute, when Benzema’s header converted a perfect cross from the right side by Gareth Bale. Atlètico’s coach Diego Simeone asked his troops to advance their defensive line, and increase their pressure at midfield. The white-and-red thus managed to stop the Blancos’ momentum, before referee Szymon Marciniak could send the teams for a break.
The beginning of the second half was as high-paced as the first, with both sides surprisingly fast and vigorous for a game being played on Ferragosto – the 15th of August. Lopetegui’s squad took the lead when Atlètico’s right back Juanfran produced himself in a remarkable piece of skill in his box…if only this was a volleyball game. From the penalty kick spot, Sergio Ramos coldly beat Oblak – currently the strongest goalkeeper in the world according to many.
Real then switched to control mode and tried to pace the game down, but forgot to take into account two small details: Their opponents’ indomitable spirit, and the passion of Atlètico’s pueblo, which kept pushing their side from the stands until they managed to snatch a 2-2 equalizer, with Diego Costa playing a duet with Angel Correa to convert their only scoring chance in the whole second half. That’s what you call cynicism.
The Colchoneros continued to go with the flow during extra time, while acedia and vainglory ultimately took a toll on the Galacticos. The third goal for Simeone’s squad originated by a careless mistake on the part of Real, with Sergio Ramos producing an awkward pass back to Raphael Varane.
Pressed by Ghanaeian Thomas Partey, the French center back lost the ball and left his opponent room for a perfect cross, and for Saul’s consequent conversion with a perfectly-timed volley: 3-2 for Atlètico was served. Still, one of the unwritten rules of football is that you never want to settle for anything. Simeone knows that, and asked his boys for an additional effort to close the game.
Roger that, his troops must have replied, as Koke quickly took advantage of Sergio Ramos’ unbalanced defensive line to catch Keylor Navas by surprise at the end of a swift counterattack. Real Madrid tried a feeble reaction, but their pre-season legs failed them, leaving the first seasonal trophy in the hands of El Cholo Simeone and Atlètico Madrid.
A quite disappointing start for the 13-time European Champions and their new coach Julen Lopetegui, who have lost their most shining star this Summer, and didn’t do much to replace him. President Florentino Perez: And now, what?
August 15, 2018 – UEFA Super Cup 2018
REAL MADRID-ATLETICO MADRID 2-4 after extra time
SCORERS: 1′ Diego Costa (A), 27′ Benzema (R), 63′ Sergio Ramos (R, pen.), 79′ Diego Costa (A), 98′ Saul (A), 104′ Koke (A)
|REAL MADRID (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro (76′ Ceballos), Kroos (102′ Borja Mayoral), Isco (83′ Lucas Vazquez); Asensio (57′ Modric), Bale, Benzema. Coach: Lopetegui|
|ATLETICO MADRID (4-4-2): Oblak; Hernandez, Godin, Savic, Juanfran, Lemar (91′ Thomas), Rodrigo (71′ Vitolo), Saul, Koke, Griezmann (57′ Correa), Diego Costa (109′ Gimenez). Coach:Simeone|
REFEREE: Marciniak (Poland)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Asensio, Marcelo, Ceballos, Modric, Sergio Ramos (R), Correa, Diego Costa, Vitolo (A); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 3′, 1st Extra Half 2′, 2nd Extra Half 1′
Translated by Matteo Carnevale