The last time Atletico Madrid won the Spanish Primera, Diego Simeone was in the team. On Saturday, the Argentinean manager led the Rojiblancos to the league title by upsetting the reigning champions Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
For just the third time in history, the winner of La Liga was to be decided on the final day between two title contenders. Despite being two points behind Atleti — and Tata Martino's claims that the Catalan giants were out of the race a few weeks ago — the bookmakers favored Barca to retain the silverware in a huge showdown at the Nou Camp. They certainly had more fans behind them: just 447 of the 99,800 seats were given to the travelling fans.
Atleti endured a pretty disastrous first half, losing their two best players and conceding a goal that threatened to deny them the title. After 14 minutes, incredibly angry striker Diego Costa was incredibly upset as he limped off when his hamstring injury flared up once again. A few minutes later, Arda Turan was unable to recover from a Cesc Fabregas challenge and joined Costa in tears on the sideline. To make matters worse, in the 32nd minute Alexis Sanchez came from nowhere to smash an unstoppable shot past Thibaut Courtois.
Simeone must have given the mother of all half time team talks as Atleti emerged after the interval as a constant danger on the attack.
The Rojiblancos found their league-winning equalizer four minutes after the restart by exploiting Barca's weakness: set pieces. Here's Diego Godin's bullet header from a corner that came virtually unchallenged from the home defence:
Barcelona piled on plenty of pressure in the final 20 minutes but were unable to make anything of their chances.
Costa and Turan had already been pushed to tears of exasperation, but when the final whistle went and the realization that they were champions set in, several of their Atleti teammates broke down in tears of joy.
In an impressive show of sportsmanship, the 99,400 Barcelona fans in attendance applauded the visitors who had swiped the title from under their noses, and even chanted "Atleti." Messi and co were unable to beat Atletico in six attempts this season, and the supporters clearly recognized they had been bested by a tremendous team.
This is the first time a team not named Real Madrid or Barcelona has won the league since 2004. To make this season truly perfect, all Atleti have to do is beat their city neighbors in the Champions League Final next week.
UPDATE: Straight after full time, Tata Martino stepped down as Barcelona coach. In other unsurprising news, the sun will rise tomorrow and the ocean is wet.
- - - - - - -
- Sports & Recreation
- Atletico Madrid
- Diego Simeone
- Tata Martino
- La Liga