Atletico Finally Get Real’s Number in Europe, and Taste Super Cup Glory
There were tears of joy on the face of an Atleti fan midway through the first half of extra time in Tallinn, Los Colcheronos had taken a 3-2 lead over Real Madrid, and were on course to finally get the better of their city rivals in Europe. The side that has denied so much in the continent, the side responsible for their anguish in four of the past five Champions League campaigns, were finally going to be on the losing side.
Perhaps this was Atletico’s best chance yet to get one over the European champions on the continental front, this was a Real side that was going to have teething problems, Cristiano Ronaldo had gone, as had Zinedine Zidane. New manager Julen Lopetegui was only 50 seconds into his competitive bow when his side fell behind, Diego Costa getting the better of Raphael Varane, then getting past Sergio Ramos, before rifling a shot past Keylor Navas from a seemingly impossible angle.
The difference in Real’s brand of football was palpable here, a style of passing from the back, which is always going to take some getting used to, there were shows of sloppiness on the ball at the back, while at the other end there was little penetration, for all their possession, the only time Jan Oblak was tested in the Atletico goal was with a Marco Asensio flick from a Marcelo cross. But after 27 minutes, 170 passes and 66% of possession, Real had their equaliser, Gareth Bale bursting past Lucas Hernandez on the right, before his cross was met by the head of Karim Benzema, who had peeled away from Stefan Savic, and into the net. Suddenly Los Blancos had a bit of verve in them, Asensio curled a shot just wide. But that was about that in terms of chances in the first 45 minutes, Real seemingly too focused on getting to grips with their new system to put Atletico on the back foot, while Atletico themselves were content enough with the scoreline to add any urgency, and halftime came with the scores level.
The second period was unlikely to replicate the first’s fast start, rather continuing in the same vein as the first ended. But 15 minutes in, Real would get a penalty, Juanfran guilty of a rather needless handball from a corner. With Ronaldo having moved on, Ramos stepped up, and made no mistake from 12 yards. Real were in front, normalcy between these two on the European front had resumed. But not quite this time.
Atletico had assistant manager German Burgos leading proceedings in the dugout, with Diego Someone serving the third of his four-game ban, and, whether it was the decision of the former or the latter, withdrew Antoine Griezmann in favour of Angel Correa, and it was Correa who would play a part in the Europa League winners restoring parity with 11 minutes left.
With Marcelo intent on making sure a Real clearance didn’t go out of play for a throw, Juanfran picked up the pieces and played in Correa, who had time to sort his feet out, and his cross across the face of goal was turned into an open net by Costa.
Again, the game hit a standstill, chances non-existent, Marcelo had a chance to grab a winner, but scuffed his attempt, and extra-time would come.
Real had been showing signs of frailty at the back with their passing, and midway through the first 15 minutes, Varane would be caught in possession, Thomas Partey found Saul, whose first-time finish was beyond the reach of Navas.
Cue the tears of joy, and moments later, Real were exposed at the back again, and they were punished once more, Koke this time with the finish.
The celebrations were in full flow now, Atletico had victory in their sights. And this time, try as they may, Real wouldn’t take it away from them. Luka Modric tested Oblak with a shot, but Real hardly threatened. Finally El Pupas wouldn’t be denied.