Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid: Mourinho’s Last Supper and the Copa del Rey final that signaled Lo

    It was 2 a.m. but Atlético Madrid fans were still awake as 15,000 of them came to Madrid’s Plaza de Neptuno to celebrate Los Colchoneros’ spectacular Copa del Rey victory.

    However, it was much more than just a victory. It was their first Cup triumph in 21 years, and to top it off, they defeated their great enemy.

    When Real Madrid and Atlético fought at the former’s home at the Santiago Bernabéu on May 17, 2013, Diego Simeone’s team had not beaten their bitter rivals since 1999.

    But Atlético’s success marked their return as a major force in Spanish football.

    They will face off again on Thursday in the Cup quarter-finals at the Bernabéu, and for many fans the preparation will evoke memories of that iconic and daring encounter.

    Overcoming history and financial muscle

    Success has already returned to Atlético. They have won the Europa League and the European Super Cup twice in the previous three years.

    And while Atlético ended up finishing a commendable third place in La Liga that season – their best finish since winning the title in 1996 – it was impossible to shake off the overwhelming sense of pessimism that has long been the attitude most associated with club.

    There have been at least 25 derbies since Atlético’s last win over Los Blancos, and even that was a relatively empty win as they ended up being relegated for the first time since 1930.

    Atlético didn’t try to fool themselves into believing they had the same weapons as Madrid.

    “We have an opponent against whom we can’t go wrong,” Simeone said. “When we talk about the chances that Real Madrid or we have in the final, they are without a doubt better than ours.”

    Even Atlético striker Radamel Falcao called Madrid the favorite because of “the budget they have and the players they have”. He was right.

    “But in one game it’s different,” Simeone added.

    For Madrid, the gravity of the event couldn’t be much more different. Expectation, not hope, dominated the build-up as Los Blancos had already missed out on the league title and lost in the Champions League semi-finals.

    Only the Copa del Rey could keep the pride of the season, but even that would not have saved Jose Mourinho’s job.

    The victory that marked the beginning of the golden era?

    The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia called it “Mourinho’s last dinner”. The technically revealing Copa del Rey was not his last game, but it was his last final against Madrid and a match that many Atlético fans would consider complete with their most historic wins.

    It was exciting, exhausting, brutal, but certainly not beautiful.

    In typical Atlético fashion, Simeone’s team did everything they could during the first exchanges to win over the faces of Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo, who gave Mourinho’s side the lead with a header in the 14th minute, was the target of several serious problems.

    But then Madrid began to return the favor. Ronaldo too. He knocked on Philip Luis. Raul Albiol informed Diego Costa and later Falcao that he was there.

    However, the two soon equalized. A brilliant pass from Falcao freed Costa, and his deadly left-foot shot beat Diego López in the Madrid net.

    The cards began to fly after the break, including a red one for Mourinho after protesting the yellow one shown – surprise, surprise – to Sergio Ramos.

    Madrid dominated, hitting the post twice after also hitting it in the first half, but Atlético held on to force extra time and eight minutes out of an extra 30 the decisive blow was struck.

    Koke’s cross from the right flank to the near post was perfect for Miranda, whose gliding header sent the net bulging and Atlético were suddenly within touching distance of a famous win.

    The sacking of Ronaldo for kicking Gabi in the face eased things up a little after the ensuing brawl on the touchline subsided. The Atlético captain soon followed him for a second warning, but by then the game was already in the fifth minute of stoppage time. The Madrid race was almost over.

    On the final roll of the dice, López went for the last corner, but Atlético survived and the referee’s whistle followed their clearance, causing bedlam.

    Fourteen yellow cards and three reds summed up the character of the game, although it was determined by the struggle and the spirit of Atlético.

    Faith takes root

    “Mourinho, stay!” there were chants from Atlético fans.

    Since then, the Madrid manager has been the quintessential Mourinho, declaring this the worst season of his career at the same time, noting that “for many managers it would be a good year.”

    But it wasn’t about Mourinho. No, anyway, he was just a footnote in the story.

    “If you were to make an offer to the fans where you would say: “We won’t beat them for 14 years, and when we win, it will be the cup final in their stadium, where they will score first, hit three times sent and win in extra time, “They would have signed up for this,” Simeone suggested with absolute certainty.

    For some – not Atlético fans – this game may have been lost in the abyss of time, given that almost 10 years have passed since it was held.

    But this is perhaps only because of the success that Atlético has had since then. That Cup triumph was monumental at the time, but the destruction of the Madrid-Barca duopoly in La Liga – 12 months later and again in 2021 – will be Simeone’s legacy once his chapter as manager ends.

    Of course, it is impossible to definitively attribute most of the successes in football to any one event that changes the course of history.

    But it was clear that winning the 2013 Cup took Atlético to a new level mentally. They have finally overcome two big barriers: success at home and the dominance of the Madrid derby.

    To summarize this glorious era with Simeone with Atlético breaking the status quo, it all leads to that day.

    Nearly 10 years later, Atlético are certainly not the team they were then, but they will go into action on Thursday with the faith that was ingrained on the night of May 17, 2013.

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