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Atlético on course for Champions League


Once the derby was over, with the stadium almost empty, the Madrid fans concentrated in the upper tier (in accordance with the practice of delaying the exit of the away supporters to avoid any incidents) chanted “champions, champions!” Outside in the surrounding streets, meanwhile, the Atlético fans were parading happily: they had won El Derbi (Madrid’s first defeat in the new Metropolitano) and were practically assured of a Champions League place, so vital for the club that this week we learnt that Simeone’s contract was conditionally-linked to it.

Betis are now six points behind them, as well as the goal difference, and there are only three games left. It’s nice to see a game like this, where everyone ends up happy.

A quiet Madrid derby

It was a relatively peaceful derby, in contrast to the unpleasant discussions of the day before about the so-called ‘guard of honour’, that polite tradition that time has turned into a humiliating demand. The game was decided by a penalty that the referee, Soto, did not call until Munuera urged him to go to the VAR screen. For me it is a penalty. Cunha heads in perpendicular to the goal, Vallejo comes in diagonally from the right, doesn’t even get a sniff of the ball and pulls him with his arm at his side and touching the back of his leg. By the New Testament, it’s a penalty for an unintentional stamping detected by VAR. By the Old Testament, it’s also a penalty.

It was the only goal in a match that deserved more. Atlético merited them in the first half, when they faced a Madrid side loaded with substitutes, absent-minded and timid, and also in the second, when they opted to retreat and launch successful counterattacks with Griezmann on the pitch.

No late escape for Madrid

And then, as the game progressed, the visitors deserved something, as Valverde, Modric and Vinicius, now on, they pushed Atlético further and further back and ended up causing Oblak problems. At times, the spectre of Madrid’s recent comebacks seemed to cross Atleti minds, but this was not the Champions League and didn’t come to pass.


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