COPA DEL REY | ATLÉTICO 2-3 BARCELONA (2-4)
Barcelona knock out Atlético in a crazy game
Neymar scored a brace. The referee gave Atleti a penalty that wasn’t, missed one that was, sent of f Gabi and Mario, but gave Turan just a yellow for throwing his boot at the assistant referee.
This game was Woodstock. Entertainment, spectacle, inspired stars, people running from one side to another, hugging at the slightest thing, goosebumps, bumps and sweat, passionate chaos and the public in the heat of the show. It was a festival to go down in history. But then referee Jesús Gil Manzano forgot he was just a ticket clerk and decided he was Hendrix. By the break he’d already ruined the game, handing out outrages like a card dealer in a casino, one for you, one for him, driving everyone mad. Barça go through, they were better and have had seven wins on the trot since the crisis, that seems so long ago now. Atleti are out, they dreamt of being heroes, but they finished with nine men and hurting. But we all lost, when the referee turned the princess into a pumpkin and ruined the party.
Fernando Torres, a big game striker all his life, took 40 seconds to level the tie. An interesting speciality from El Niño, with three goals in the opening minute of the half, two in Chamartín and one here. A great goal too. A poor long ball from Mascherano was cut out by Siqueira who sent the ball back in, where it fell to Torres who turned the Argentinean and shot just inside the post. Cue madness in the Calderón.
Barça, uncomfortable on grass more like a badly tended garden than a football pitch, responded in most unlikely fashion, as if they’d swapped bodies with their rivals: counter-attacking. Without Godín setting the rhythm and Tiago managing the space, Atleti left gaps for Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez. In some languages that’s called suicide. On a counter, Messi turned Mario Suárez inside out on the touchline, passed to the Uruguayan who set up Neymar, on the run with Juanfran pursuing him as if it was a rescue not football. The whereabouts of the Atleti central defenders would make for a series on paranormal abductions. The Brazilian, scandalously good, beat Oblak, who fell as fast as Zubizarreta.
With the sides level the game turned into an Ali-Frazier or Bogart-Bacall, an exchange of blows, both physical and verbal. End to end. Excitement. If there were any midfielders out there, nobody noticed them. Neymar had a goal chalked off for offside that didn’t look like it; Torres, fired up by his goal, was involved and good; Griezmann tested Ter Stegen with a volley and with the Calderón at peak frenzy, Gil Manzano decided to get involved.
In contra to the rules of the impenetrability of a physical object, Juanfran tried to go through Mascherano on his way into the box. An impossible task of course and he fell to the floor after running into the Argentinean. It wasn’t a foul and it was outside the box. But in a double twist the referee gave a penalty. Raúl García made it 2-1. Barça replied by stealing Atleti’s identity again, this time with a corner. Rakitic took it, Busquets flicked it on. Miranda has scored so many times from that situation, coming in at the back post, that he got confused and stabbed it home. With no Godín, the Atleti defence was unrecognisable.
In the next 10 minutes referee Gil Manzano put the tie to bed. In the 41st minute Griezmann shot at his pleasure at the Barça goal, only for Alba to appear and block the effort with his arm. It was a clear penalty, but the referee didn’t want to appear predictable. “That’s what any old ref would give”, he thought as he watched Barça take the ball down to the other end of the pitch on a wonderful counter that Neymar finished with his infinite class. From 3-2 to 2-3 in 30 seconds.
The blow from a wonderful footballer (Neymar) and a referee who is, shall we say, different did for Atleti, who lost the plot. On the way to the showers the two sides got involved in the sort of scuffle referees tend to disperse with a light touch of diplomacy. Not our protagonist, who sent off Gabi for protesting in the tunnel. Fin.
At half time Atleti went off as a team and returned as a gang. Frenzied. The second half wasn’t worthy of the first. Barcelona let time pass as they moved towards a certain victory, while Atleti looked for any puddle to throw themselves into. In another unbelievable decision Gil Manzano didn’t send Arda off for throwing his boot at the assistant referee (seriously) and ended up sending off Mario (who had worked for it). A horrible end to a game that wasn’t allowed to go down in history.