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Back on the bus

Atlético celebrates first win over city rival Real for 14 years

Atlético Madrid's players celebrate on an open bus at the Neptuno square in Madrid on Saturday.
Atlético Madrid's players celebrate on an open bus at the Neptuno square in Madrid on Saturday.DANI POZO (AFP)

It had taken 14 years, 25 matches and a hefty slice of luck, but finally Atlético Madrid was able to celebrate a victory over its neighbor and rival, Real. Sweeter still for the long-suffering supporters of the capital’s traditional second side, Friday night’s 2-1 win was achieved in the Bernabéu, and in the final of the King’s Cup.

It was Atlético coach Diego Simeone’s third title with the club since he took over from Gregorio Manzano 18 months ago. For Real coach José Mourinho, it capped “my worst ever season.” The Portuguese has won at least one major trophy every season for the last 10 years, since he led FC Porto to the Portuguese double and Uefa Cup.

But there was no celebration at the Cibeles fountain in Madrid, the habitual scenario for Real supporters to lord it over their less-decorated rivals. Instead, it was the next-door Neptune fountain that played host to a sea of red-and-white on Saturday night as Atlético triumphantly paraded the trophy from an open-top bus.

“The fans should be proud of all the players,” said Simeone after his side’s extra-time win, which was made possible by a courageous display by his players, man-for-man little match on paper for the panoply of internationals swelling Real’s ranks, fine individual displays from Thibaut Courtois and Gabi, and the intervention of the woodwork on three occasions. “The best thing about atléticos is that we never stop believing.”

For Real Madrid, the loss on its own turf brought the curtain down a season of bitter power struggles, disappointing on-field returns and ultimately an empty trophy cabinet, excepting the Spanish Supercup, which Mourinho himself dismissed as “irrelevant.”

The Real coach is to oversee the last two games of the season and then it is widely expected he will turn his back on the club and return to the Premier League: much to the relief of a large section at Madrid’s biggest sporting institution.

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