José Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo were both sent off as Real Madrid lost a dramatic, bad-tempered Copa del Rey final to Atlético Madrid – the first time they had been beaten by their city rivals in 26 games, and in their own stadium too. As a fractious game that had confrontations and 14 yellow cards ended, Atlético’s players raced to the north end of this stadium to celebrate with their fans, who could hardly believe what had just unfolded before their eyes in extra time: Joao Miranda’s header and two superb saves from Thibault Courtois giving them the trophy.
Atlético’s fans began an ironic chant of “Mourinho, stay!” The Madrid manager, though, was not there to hear them: he had long since departed, sent off after 77 minutes for remonstrating with the referee. If, as is likely, he is given a two-game ban, he may have sat on the Bernabéu bench for the last time. His final season in Spain has ended in failure, without a trophy.
“This is the worst season of my life,” Mourinho said. “A Super Cup, a semi-final, a runner-up. For many coaches that would be a good year. For me it is the worst.”
There will be some Atlético fans claiming this as the greatest victory in their history. They had not beaten their city rivals since 1999 and that year they went down. Since returning to the top flight, these two teams had faced each other 25 times. Not once had Atlético won; Real Madrid had won ten in a row. Those victories had become increasingly easy too and it seemed like another case of Groundhog Day here when Ronaldo leapt above Godín and, from a couple of yards in front of the penalty spot, headed Mesut Özil’s corner for the opener after just 13 minutes.
One of the most significant criticisms that can be levelled at Mourinho in Madrid is that too often his teams have sat and tried to protect leads rather than seeking to augment them. There was a certain logic to it on this occasion, given that both of these sides are better suited to playing on the break, and for 20 minutes there was not one chance. But then Radamel Falcao received the ball in the middle of the pitch.
The Colombian held off the centre-back Raúl Albiol, who had come out to meet him, turned back swiftly, rolling Albiol out of the way, wriggled beyond Sami Khedira, evaded the recovering Albiol for a second time and played a perfect pass into the space that he himself had vacated ready for Diego Costa to occupy. Dashing in from the right, Costa outran Fábio Coenträo, controlled with his first touch and, with his second, thumped a superb 20-yard shot low and hard into the far corner. The finish was almost as impressive as the assist. It was the Brazilian’s eighth goal of the Cup this season, making him the tournament’s top scorer.
Suddenly, the game was alive. Luka Modric shot wide and then Özil struck a skidding effort off the post before half-time. This was a different game now and it continued in a similar manner in the second half. Filipe Luis had Atlético’s best two chances, coming in from the left: the first was hit tamely; the second was a volley that flashed past the near post after Gabi’s deep cross from the other side.
The best opportunity came at the other end, though. On the hour mark, Ronaldo chased down a ball on the left and surged past Joao Miranda to the byline. Ronaldo‘s pull back took a deflection and dropped to Karim Benzema, who hit the post, the ball again falling to a Madrid player. This time it was Özil, steadying himself and stepping inside seven yards out, only to find Juanfran diving across to block on the goalline. Just eight minutes later it was happening again. Ronaldo‘s clever free-kick curled under the leaping wall and back off the post to Michael Essien, whose wild effort flew over from near the edge of the six-yard box.
Fortune was on Atlético’s side, it seemed. Could their run of defeats really be coming to an end? It was getting tense now, dirty too. Ronaldo, fouled time and again, was growing increasingly angry. Confrontations began occurring and, in the 78th minute, Mourinho came racing off his bench to remonstrate with the referee, Carlos Clos Gomez, following a challenge from Mario Suárez. He refused to back down when the referee called for calm and was sent off, down the tunnel for perhaps the last time.