The two faces of Atlético on Messi's night

Lacklustre Leti

How strange is football! Atletico's first half performance suggested a total collapse. They came out offering nothing, they were slow and had no appetite, at the mercy of Barça, who themselves were not firing on all cylinders but with Messi, who seized the stage and the ball, reminding me once again of the Di Stéfano displays from long ago. But we've seen these more often. What we had never seen in recent times was an Atlético so inept in front of their own fans, giving up or throwing out a lazy kick. But no flow to their play. And yet, come the second half, they resembled a cyclone. They deserved to go in at half-time 0-2.

Barcelona's Messi in full flow against Atlético in the Copa del Rey semi-final.

Messi in command

The situation got complicated for Atlético early. In minute 10, Griezmann lost the ball which found Luis Suárez unhinged from his central markers. He went at Savic, he pushed the ball one side, went round him on the other and then ran, with tremendous power, pursued by an extremely slow Godín. He finished it off with a delicate touch with the outside of his boot. A great goal, but against poor defending. Then the collapse, as Messi, in charge of everything was able to change when he got tired of being like Di Stéfano, to being like Puskas, with a tremendous left-foot strike from outside the area. 0-2 and Atlético in meltdown.

Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone managed to restoke the flames at half-time.

Return of Atlético spirit

But Simeone knew how to reignite the group. His "Caesarism" is not yet dead. Torres came on, a stimulus for the fans and for the team itself, and the home pride returned. Atlético took control of the ball, upped the tempo of their game, got in position and finished off a chance. Barça managed to find some respite when Messi returned to the fore, but soon Atlético were at it again, pushing forward. It was an intense second half, magnificent, with no more to show for it than one goal, 1-2, but it could easily have been 3-2. The home fans went away happy, because the nightmare of the first half gave way to effervescent promise. How strange is football! And how beautiful is the Cup!