Atlético-Real Madrid: a fitting finale to 50 years of Calderón derbies
The last Madrid derby at the Calderón lived up to all its history. Both sides were winners. Atlético were winners on the night, 2-1, leaving the field to an ovation from their fans, who rewarded their team's refusal to throw in the towel, imploring them to come back out to take a bow and pick up the acclaim for their commitment to the cause, for their fine season, for that European semi-final and for their third place in LaLiga, which brings direct entry to the Champions League group stage. And Real were winners in familiar fashion, returning to the final of their favourite competition having had to overcome a spell on the rocks after going 2-0 down within a quarter of an hour. Both were winners; football was the winner. The European Cup, that wonderful invention of the Old Continent's, was the winner.
Benzema creates Isco goal as Real respond to early Atlético goals
Real came into the return with a big lead, but Atlético threatened to wipe it out with two quickfire goals: the first a corner superbly headed home by Saúl Ñíguez, the second a penalty kick too easily conceded by Raphael Varane for a tackle on Fernando Torres. The clock had barely passed the 15-minute mark, and Atleti had lent weight to all their pre-match proclamations. But, looking to the quality on the ball brought by Isco and Luka Modric, who kept things calm, Real found their way out of the tight spot and grabbed the goal that put them back in charge of the tie just before half time, Karim Benzema punishing sloppy defending with a Butragueño-esque piece of play, right on the wire, before Isco finished; it had to be him.
A fair result? That was the age-old question opening the post-match press conferences. Yes, I'd say; a fair result and the right outcome. Because Atlético were worthy victors in a landmark fixture they were duty-bound to win, and because Madrid took the overall prize: a place in the final. They had brought a handsome lead with them, a 3-0 advantage that saw 2-0 dissolve like a sugar cube in a cuppa when it became 2-1, because it left Atleti needing three more. With only a half of football still to be played, that was tantamount to mission impossible. Even still, the hosts gave it a jolly good go, drawing a display from Keylor Navas that meant the keeper was the second 45's outstanding performer. Against a backdrop of rain and applause, it was a fitting curtain call for 50 years of Calderón clashes.