Newspaper article International New York Times

An Aggressive Atletico Runs out of Tricks

Newspaper article International New York Times

An Aggressive Atletico Runs out of Tricks

Article excerpt

Barcelona wasn't allowed to be at its fluent best at home, but it still came from a goal down to win, 2-1, in front of 94,990 at the Camp Nou.

Barely a week goes by without Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring. They share more than 1,000 goals, and their careers are far from over.

But if there is one aspect that we too seldom acknowledge, it is the sheer courage they possess to be such outstanding players. There are opponents who would cut them down without a second thought, and that happened on Saturday when Atletico Madrid defender Filipe Luis kicked Messi so high and so hard on his knee that it could have knocked the star out of the game for months. Permanently, even.

The referee red carded Filipe Luis. Later, a second Atletico player, Diego Godin, was sent off for his second yellow-card foul.

Barcelona wasn't allowed to be at its fluent best at home, but it still came from a goal down to win, 2-1, in front of 94,990 at the Camp Nou.

The result put Barcelona three points clear of Atletico in La Liga, with the Catalan team having played a game less. And in recent years, these games, along with the Clasico involving Barcelona and Real Madrid, have decided who wins the Spanish title.

Messi scored on Saturday; of course he did. And he played the full game despite that horrendous tackle before halftime.

The coaches, both combative players in their day, reacted differently when questioned by reporters after the game. Barcelona's Luis Enrique was incensed, saying that he was shocked by a dangerous foul.

Atletico's Diego Simeone saw nothing he could reproach Filipe Luis over. "Not in any way" he told reporters. "It was an incident in the game and the referee interpreted it as he did."

Simeone added: "I'm proud of the team that I have. We played a great first half, except for those 10 minutes when Barca pressed us and scored two goals. Even with nine men on the field, we still maintained our way of playing.

"You can win or lose," he concluded. "I prefer losing like this every time."

Atletico's website followed Simeone's lead, calling the game an "Honorable Defeat at Camp Nou."

Honor is a matter of opinion. The referee, Undiano Mallenco, was swift and decisive in meting out those two red cards, along with three more yellow cards, to Atletico players. He issued none to Barcelona, even though Madrid's Augusto Fernandez was the one player to be badly injured Saturday -- he was taken off on a stretcher with, of all things, a knee injury.

Yet how often in the past have we praised the organized and wholehearted way that Atletico, despite its comparatively meager payroll, has taken on the big two clubs in Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid?

The team reflects Simeone's energetic approach to the game, with players putting everything they have into each performance. …

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