Madrid Derby Memories

On Saturday La Capital’s two biggest clubs go head-to-head for the second time this season with much more than just three points at stake.

Their meetings over the last few years have thrown up lots of exciting (and some not so) clashes. Here I take a look at some of the games which stand out most for me ahead of my first experience of the game en directo en el Estadio tomorrow!

The One That Changed Everything

Miranda’s shirt from the 2013 Copa del Rey Final

Before Diego Simeone’s arrival, Atlético were seen as cursed. The last time they’d been able to celebrate a victory over their arch-rivals was all the way back in 1999, a magnificent Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink-inspired 3-1 win at the Bernabéu. Yet in typical Atlético fashion, they ended up getting relegated that season.

Once back in the top flight, the derby was the one hurdle they couldn’t jump. Almost 14 years and 26 games passed before los colchoneros could again celebrate a derby win – but what an occasion to do it…

On Friday 17th May 2013, staged a day earlier than scheduled, no joke, so as not to clash with the Eurovision Song contest, Atlético and Real Madrid faced off in the Copa del Rey Final. Cristiano Ronaldo scored as he always seemed to do against Atlético. But Diego Costa equalised before half time.

It was a bad-tempered game. There were 14 bookings – two of which went to Ronaldo, sent off in extra time. Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands in his last match as Madrid manager. But Atlético kept their heads best and won it. Joao Miranda’s extra time goal brought the trophy back to the banks of the Manzanares for the first time since 1996 and arguably changed the course of Atlético’s modern history.

The One I Nearly Went To

March 2014 saw me visit Madrid for the first time. My carnival weekend holiday represented my first opportunity to travel outside Galicia and I chose Madrid because a friend from university was studying there for the year. Then I checked the fixtures – surely it was too good to be true? My first trip to Madrid and I could go to the derby?

In short, yes it was. The first thing I did upon arriving in Madrid was get the Metro out to the Vicente Calderon and head to the taquilas. Alas, there were no tickets available for less than €90 and that would have represented blowing the majority of my budget for the weekend on the first morning. So I reluctantly turned away and after a quick look round the museum and the obligatory scarf purchase, I got on with the rest of the weekend.

The match itself on the Sunday afternoon turned out to be a cracker. While not the exactly on the same level as watching it in the stadium, it was still fun to watch it in a bar, at least until I had to leave early to ensure I got to the game I was able to afford tickets for – Rayo v Valencia.

Karim Benzema put Madrid in front early on, but Atlético fought back with first Koke and then Gabi scoring to put them in control. I was on my way to Vallecas by the time Cristiano Ronaldo (who else?) salvaged Madrid a point late on. Although Ronaldo’s equaliser meant Madrid stayed top, Atlético would memorably overhaul both them and Barcelona to record one of the most dramatic title wins in Spanish football history.

The One That Hurts The Most

Diego Godín – Back when he had hair

May 2014 in Lisbon. The first time two teams from the same city had played in a Champions League Final. I was approaching the end of my first year teaching in Spain and was genuinely excited about the prospect of watching the game in a proper Spanish atmosphere.

That was until I realised that 99.9% of the locals would be behind Real Madrid. I guess I always knew that Madrid and Barcelona dominated everything on the Spanish football scene but it wasn’t until I eventually moved to Galicia that I realised how much they did.

Anyway, I met up with a few of my friends and colleagues, who were all supporting Atlético for the night thankfully, and we went to a bar on the edge of the city where things would be a bit quieter. Seriously, one of the bars near my flat at the time had been taking bookings for groups ever since the final line-up was decided.

This is a game that I have such conflicting memories of. The disappointment when key man Diego Costa was forced off early on, having come back too soon from the injury he sustained in the title-winning game at the Nou Camp. The elation when Iker Casillas’ blunder helped Diego Godín score the opener. Nerves as Atlético’s increasingly knackered players sat deeper and deeper defending their lead. The excited feeling of ‘They’re actually going to do this’ as the seconds ticked away in injury time. And then the total, complete devastation when Ramos’ header tied things up.

I think everyone knew that there was no coming back from that and it was only a matter of time before Madrid scored another. And then another. And then another. It was a cruel end to a magnificent season for Atlético.

The One Where Atlético Got Revenge

Not a good day for CR7

 After Lisbon, Atlético went on a remarkable run of success against their arch-nemesis, beating them to win the Spanish Super Cup in August, winning at the Bernabéu in the league and knocking them out of the Copa del Rey. But this was undoubtedly the highlight.

Once again, Real Madrid arrived at the Vicente Calderon top of the league, while Atlético, the reigning champions of course, were back in third. But Madrid were missing a number of key defenders and were rocked as Atlético handed them their biggest league defeat since the infamous 5-0 clásico in 2010.

It started badly for them when a mistake from Iker Casillas helped Thiago Mendes open the scoring. Then Saúl, just breaking through as a first team regular, scored a spectacular overhead kick to make it 2-0.

Antoine Griezmann made it 3-0 midway through the second half before Mario Mandžukić (still seems weird that he didn’t fit in at Atlético) made it 4-0 right before the end.

This is another one I watched in Santiago but it’s the reaction to the result that really makes it stand out for me. The Madrid players were roundly criticised for their performance but even more so after photos emerged of them celebrating at Ronaldo’s 30th birthday party that evening.

This meant that when I made my first visit to the Bernabéu the following weekend it was a cauldron of hatred – for their own players. Which made it an interesting experience.

Meanwhile, this remains Atlético’s last home derby win in La Liga.

The One That Was On My Birthday

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Happy Griezmann

This one admittedly only stands out for me because of the date. 27th February 2016, my 30th birthday.

I spent the day in Sevilla, wandering around the centre. I had a great meal in a restaurant there and then in the afternoon I was able to head to a bar to watch this game.

It wasn’t really a classic, but it did mean that Diego Simeone had recorded a win at the Bernabéu for the fourth consecutive season – and inflicted Zinedine Zidane’s first defeat since he took over from Rafa Benitez.

The One That Felt The Most Unfair

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Always just out of reach – Champions League trophy on display in the Real Madrid store on Gran Via, Madrid

Two years on from Lisbon, the two sides met again in the Champions League Final in Milan.

Life was pretty good for me, I was two working days away from finishing my first year teaching in Huelva, I was a couple of weeks away from heading to France for Euro 2016, and as I gathered with my friends and colleagues to watch the game I felt sure that the wrongs of Lisbon would be set right this time.

I was confident because Atlético had saved their best performances for Europe that season, eliminating both the tournament favourites Barcelona and Bayern Munich along the way. In contrast, Real Madrid had enjoyed a pretty easy ride in terms of the fixtures they got, but still had managed to underwhelm. They’d needed a dramatic comeback in the second leg against Wolfsburg in the quarter finals after losing the first leg 2-0 and in the semi finals had only edged past a Man City side who barely even bothered to attack them despite being behind and heading for elimination. Atlético also held the head-to-head advantage in their domestic meetings that season.

But this was the Champions League and the European stage makes Real Madrid a totally different proposition.

When Sergio Ramos headed Madrid in front, ours was pretty much the only table in the bar that didn’t erupt in celebration – Huelva is as much a Madrid stronghold as Santiago, so once again the giuris stood out. Of course as we watched the replays of the goal we soon realised that Ramos had been in an offside position – the goal shouldn’t have stood. “Typical”, I thought.

Then just after half time, Atleti were handed a golden chance to equalise. Fernando Torres was fouled by Pepe and they were awarded a penalty. But Antoine Griezmann smashed it against the bar. “Typical, again”

But far from letting their heads drop, Atleti tore into Madrid time and time again and finally got their reward when Yannick Ferreira Carrasco equalised with 11 minutes remaining. Surely now, with seemingly unstoppable momentum on their side, Atlético would get a winner?

Well, no. The match went to extra time and inevitably penalties. The first seven penalties were scored, but JuanFran then hit the post, leaving Madrid with a match point. Jan Oblak, arguably one of the world’s best goalkeepers and with a good penalty saving record in matches, hadn’t got anywhere near any of the Madrid penalties and he couldn’t keep out the final one either from who else but Ronaldo, who made up for being utterly anonymous for the previous 120 minutes by grabbing all the headlines through converting the winning penalty.

After the match he said in an interview that he’d had a dream that he scored the winner. I somehow doubt there’s a night that Ronaldo doesn’t dream about him scoring loads of goals.

The thing that annoyed me most here was how little the local Madrid “fans” seemed to actually care once they’d won it. The bar was practically empty by the time the trophy presentation took place and the streets weren’t full of white-shirted fans celebrating. There were plenty of them around, but it was as if this was just a normal Saturday night.

The Bittersweet One

2016/17 was yet another Champions League season where los blancos inflicted pain on their rivals. Drawn together in the semi finals, Real Madrid won the first leg at the Bernabéu 3-0, therefore rendering the second leg almost academic.

Yet it wasn’t, because this was to be the last Madrid derby ever held at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, Atlético’s home for over 50 years, before they moved into the new Wanda Metropolitano. And even if they couldn’t turn the tie around, Atlético were determined to give the old ground a night to remember.

It started even before kick off. As the teams walked out and the Champions League theme played, the fans formed an impressive display spelling out ORGULLOSOS DE NO SER COMO VOSOTROS

Prior to the first leg, Madrid fans had put on a display taunting their Atlético counterparts about their previous Champions League meetings. This was a perfectly Atleti response.

Once the match got underway, Atleti flew out of the blocks and established a 2-0 lead. First Saúl scored, then when Antoine Griezmann just about beat Keylor Navas with his dinked penalty the Madrid fans in the bar I was watching this in were worried. It was all Atlético and Madrid seemed to be wilting in the fevered atmosphere.

But then just before the break everything changed. Karim Benzema somehow got round three defenders out on the byline and cut the ball back to Toni Kroos. His shot was saved by Jan Oblak but he could only parry it into the path of Isco, who instinctively poked it home. Game Over – the dreaded away goal meant that Atlético now needed three unanswered goals to make it to the final in Cardiff.

Of course, these goals didn’t come but I’ll always remember the atmosphere created by the home fans at this game, which came across really well even on TV. Even after the final whistle had sealed their elimination, they stayed behind to show their appreciation for their team.

What memories will The One I’m Actually Going To provide? I guess I’ll have a better idea of that around 6 next Saturday.

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