Atletico stun Real to win Copa del Rey

ILL-TEMPERED AFFAIR::Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo was shown a red card after he kicked out at Atletico Madrid captain Gabi, apparently catching him in the face

Reuters, MADRID

Sun, May 19, 2013 - Page 18

Atletico Madrid stunned city rivals Real Madrid to win their 10th Copa del Rey when Miranda’s extra-time header secured a 2-1 comeback win in an action-packed and ill-tempered clash at the Bernabeu on Friday in which Real coach Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo were both sent off.

Atletico’s jubilant fans spilled onto the streets of the Spanish capital to celebrate their first victory over their bitter city rivals in 14 years, while the Real faithful were left to reflect on a season without major silverware and the possible departure of Mourinho at the end of the campaign.

Ronaldo, who was shown a straight red card after he kicked out at Atletico captain Gabi in the second half of extra time, apparently catching him in the face, nodded Real ahead in the 14th minute.

Diego Costa leveled 10 minutes before the break and after Mourinho was dismissed for furiously protesting a referee’s decision with about 15 minutes of regular time left Miranda glanced a 99th-minute header past Diego Lopez to secure a first win against Real since 1999.

The match, in which Real hit the post three times, descended into chaos near the end when a mass brawl between substitutes and technical staff erupted on the side of the pitch as Ronaldo received his marching orders.

Play was further interrupted moments later when Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was hit by an object thrown from the crowd and Gabi was shown a second yellow card in the dying seconds for time wasting.

After five minutes of nerve-wrenching extra time, the referee finally blew the whistle, sending the red and white-clad Atletico fans into raptures, while the white half of Real’s own stadium was left in mute shock.

The Copa del Rey does not carry the same prestige as La Liga or a European title, but the Atletico fans’ euphoria also reflected the fact that they had got the better of their city neighbors after more than a decade of disappointment.

“This team has worked extremely hard for this match,” Gabi told Spanish television as his teammates celebrated wildly and showered each other with champagne nearby.

“This victory tastes of glory and is for all those who have suffered for 14 years,” he added.

There was a party atmosphere on the streets of Madrid throughout the day, despite the unusually chilly temperatures and it spilled over into the stadium, with the Atletico fans in particularly fine voice before kickoff.

After Ronaldo’s opener and Costa’s equalizer, Mesut Ozil struck a fierce shot against the post two minutes before the break and Karim Benzema was denied by the frame of the goal on the hour, before Juanfran cleared Ozil’s follow-up shot off the line.

There were further signs that it was not going to be Real’s night when Ronaldo blasted a low free- kick against the post in the 69th minute and Michael Essien hammered the rebound over.

Centerback Miranda nodded Koke’s cross into the net to put Atletico ahead for the first time and Courtois conjured two stunning reflex saves to deny substitute Gonzalo Higuain and Ozil late into extra time.

It was Real’s first home defeat in 44 matches and follows their reverse in the Champions League semi-finals to Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona’s fourth La Liga title in five years secured at the weekend.

Real were denied a 19th Copa del Rey triumph — Barcelona hold the most titles with 26 — and they have now lost 20 of the 38 domestic Cup finals in which they have featured, including six of eight played at their own stadium.

Mourinho, widely expected to return to Chelsea at the end of the season, told his post-match news conference Atletico had not deserved to win.

“It is not normal to hit the post three times,” the Portuguese said, after a robust defense of his record at Real since joining from Inter Milan in 2010. “You don’t have to be a magician to tell that the result of the final was not fair, that Atletico is not a just winner. In football everything is forgotten, you forget the refereeing, the posts. Only the winner remains and that is Atletico.”

Real captain Sergio Ramos was more magnanimous in defeat.

“We have to congratulate our opponent, they deserved to win the title,” he told Spanish television. “We had four or five clear chances and if you don’t take them you regret it later.”