For those of you Colchoneros still alive to read this, let’s revisit Atlético’s agonising 1-1 tie versus Málaga.
How close were Diego Simeone’s men from achieving eternal glory on Sunday?
A Willy Caballero fingernail close.
Coming into Sunday’s affair, Atleti were dealt the harsh blow of not having their deadliest weapon Diego Costa at their disposal.
‘The Beast’s’ absence became increasingly more conspicuous as the clash transpired, with David Villa botching a couple of clear chances in the opening 45 minutes of play.
But there was no real cause for concern at the break.
The festively adorned Vicente Calderón, with its majestic splendour fully on display in anticipation of a legendary evening, hadn’t witnessed an opposing team’s goal in six games.
But then, 20 minutes into the second half, the collective soul of the Rojiblanco faithful was splashed with the bucket of ice cold water that was Málaga’s wacky goal in the 65th minute.
A pair of inexplicable slip-ups between Toby Alderweireld and Thibaut Courtois led to Samuel’s against-the-run-of-play strike.
Fortunately, Toby atoned for his error just 9 minutes later.
The Belgian, who had stepped in as a starter for the suspended Diego Godín, headed home the equaliser from a corner.
The goal instantly sparked a dejected Calderón back to its earlier thunderous levels of merriment, as the fans in attendance tried to inspirit their men to complete the comeback with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Meanwhile, over in Elche, Barcelona were finding it very hard to break down los Franjiverdes’ defence, and things were all level at 0-0.
With Real Madrid crashing and burning in Vigo, a late match-winner by either Atleti or Elche would have sufficed to fulfill the red and white fantasy.
Barça hadn’t allowed a single shot on target, so it was always going to be difficult for Elche to come to our aid.
The boys in green and white were already accomplishing all we had wished for throughout the week–to make sure Barcelona didn’t leave town with the three points.
Back to Cholo Castle, or what we can remember from the dying moments there.
We see Adrián make some space for himself inside the box with a deft touch to his right. The Asturian squares up to take the shot and strikes. The ball sails into an upper 90 curl and time freezes forever.
This is it. We did it. 18 years later and………..noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Wilfredo Daniel Caballero Lazcano, better known as Willy, supernaturally gets a fingertip to the ball and sends it flying to outer space.
‘Cholo’ has always insisted upon how much work it has taken to get to where we are. It’s never been easy for Simeone’s ‘hard-luck’ winners.
And so, the path to the championship runs through familiar territory. Eight of Atleti’s nine league titles have been won on the final match day, our friends over at Esto Es Atleti had recently reminded us, and so it shall be if we are to add ‘La Decima’ to our trophy cabinet next Saturday when we visit the Camp Nou.
The heavyweight title fight for the ages, the grand finale between Spain’s number one and number two, is set to be played on the one-year anniversary of our Copa del Rey win over Real Madrid.
All we need is one point, so cheer up fellow Rojiblancos.
This is a nice reminder of why sports have the edge on just about all of our other current forms of entertainment: there is no script.
No one knows what will happen.
What we do know is that, win or lose on the 17th, we’ll always be here for our beloved Atleti.
Read the rest of my match recap over at AtléticoFans here.