Because they stood together like brothers...
It was the 11th minute, just after what traditionalists call the “weigh-up” had elapsed: that period of the game when both sides are getting going, probing, observing, seeing what their feelings are and those of the opposition. It was the 11th minute when Saúl went on a run, down the right, elegantly gliding through the Bayern defence, humiliating one opposition defender, then another, then another, and the another. Leaving Bayern players in his wake he opted to pass the ball into the net, across Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer, with a stroke o fhis left foot, taking advantage of the natural effect a left-footer can place on the ball from the right channel. Imperious.
From there on, the onus was firmly on Bayern, with Diego Simeone happy to give them the ball and the pitch. Atlético launched a few forays through Filipe Luis, but always laced with caution, and then they dropped back, regrouped and waited again. With 80 minutes on the clock is appeared to be a reckless tactic against this Bayern side, but it wasn’t. In this Bayern side there is little evidence of Pep Guardiola’s Barça, maybe because that Barça side was the more the Barça of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi than Guardiola’s. The usual Bayern also wasn’t on display, the side that in two or three fits of rage can hammer a rival team. Bayern pressured, they were strong, they showed typical German obstinacy, but without acuity.
And that was the game. The crowd singing, German pressure, and increasingly infrequent Atlético attacks. Thomas Müller and Franck Ribéry came off the bench but the threat of them joining the fray was more frightening than their actual effect on the game. David Alaba hit the bar, silencing the Calderón for a millisecond. Fernando Torres also hit the post after a slick move. And then the minutes slowly passed, among chants and emotion, Atlético defending with stubborn resolve, until the final whistle. Saúl’s solitary strike will have to be defended in Munich with the same conviction, with the same selfless effort. Standing together like brothers, as they did in the Calderón.
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