There are two things to say about Atletico Madrid’s’ first defeat in four league matches: one, I was stuck in the desert with my car tires buried in sand and unable to watch the match at the time, and two, the only thing you can say about Real Sociedad, as an Atleti Fan, is that they’re in 15th place.
Otherwise, it was a terrible night for Atletico Madrid and a fantastic one for Sociedad.
I later hoped, when I watched the match, that relief would come for Atleti in the same way it did for our car stuck in the sand (a truck and some kind Samaritans eventually hauled us out), but in the end there wasn’t a good explanation for what happened in San Sebastian.
Atletico did it to themselves, possibly in the same way that I did too, because me and my companion pulled off the road, on what turned out to be a questionable surface, in order to fiddle with out cellphone so that we could stream the match.
My car troubles aside, it was pretty clear what happened to Atleti on Sunday – the squad was tired, disoriented, and La Real’s Carlos Vela was only too pleased to punish them for it. Referee Álvarez Izquierdo provided a helping hand, award several hideous calls in Real Sociedad’s direction (and it certainly could have been more if he had been paying attention), but the unchanged Atleti squad was tired and uninspired. The squad would have benefited from the likes of Tiago, Jimenez and even Cerci starting. I would say Griezmann too, but he frankly wasn’t of a bet, having said earlier in the week that he wouldn’t be celebrating any goals he scored against his former side.
Sociedad, who had claimed just a single victory so far this season, looked as if they were setting-up house in the relegation zone. However, they looked ready for some change to their luck on Sunday, after sacking manager Jagoba Arrasate early in the week, along with his second and third coaches. Asier Santana, coach of Sociedad’s reserve team, took the helm against Atletico and certainly proved his worth – however, his victory was just in time to attract a slick new manager in the form of David Moyes, who was announced as the new Sociedad manager on November 11.
The night in Anoeta was chilly and wet, judging by the amount of arctic wear the coaches donned. Nevertheless, the match looked promising for Atleti, after a beautiful Raul Garcia cross in the 10th minute found Mario Mandzukic, who put the ball away. After that, everything fell apart like a LEGO house under slingshot fire.
Los Rojiblancos just couldn’t gel following that first goal. Sociedad controlled the possession, while Atleti made mistakes that La Real were only too pleased to capitalise on – mostly courtesy of Carlos Vela, who was like a shark after a trail of particularly well-mixed chum. He equalised in the 14th minute, punishing an unusually sleepy Miranda by smashing the ball past the helpless Moya.
A parade of yellow cards followed, many of them questionable, starting with Mario Suarez in the 12th minute and continuing with Arda Turan in the 15th minute, after he did something that was a foul according to the linesman – although, nobody else could figure out what exactly it was. His team-mates rushed to Turan’s defence and Juanfran, who was one of the least vociferous of those arguing, was shown a yellow for dissent, by a clearly irritated referee.
There were a shambolic ten cards shown in all, including a red to Siqueira following a second yellow in the 49th minute. His foul was clear, but his refusal to leave the field was indicative of the rising despair within the squad. In all, Madrid received seven yellows and a red, and they were lucky that there weren’t more – several fouls were overlooked by the referee, who was perhaps as exhausted as the Madrid side.
Half-time should have allowed the team time to calm down, but the problems continued. Atleti would have been lucky to leave with a point and I believe, like many, that Simeone was hoping for just that. But his side were out to a boozy lunch and far from interested in coming back. Miranda all but stopped defending and even Godin’s clever saved couldn’t stop Sociedad from sealing victory when Agirretxe headed a ball past Moya in the 82nd minute. Atleti brought on Griezmann, but the match was already lost.
No Atleti match (or a match report from me), however disappointing the news, would be complete without an entertaining moment from Simeone. Instead of raging about his side’s total failure to play football, Cholo held steady on the sideline (although I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be in the locker room with him afterwards). In the 78th minute, Simeone headed a ball that came to him, earning himself a talking-to from the referee, but luckily no dismissal.
After the match, when asked if he had any complaints about the referee and his yellow card dance-party, Simeone deftly avoided the question and gave a patently slick prss-friendly answer.
He said, “I’m happy, because it was a good day for us. Valencia and Sevilla drew, so in that sense it was a good day for a defeat.”
I wish that Atleti has managed to get themselves unstuck in the same way our car eventually did. Despite the disappointment, the international break will provide them some resting time before they face Malaga at home on November 22 – time enough to get themselves sorted – and maybe take a long look through the Sociedad spyglass at where they fell down.