Sunday December 15th 2013, at the ‘Stadio Vicente Calderon’, KO 9pm, La Liga.
Atletico Madrid (RedNWhiteStripes/Blue) 3-0 Valencia (White/Black)
Admission 50 Euro (central area in the middle tier opp main stand). Programme n/a, badge 3 euros.
It’s only five stops from the centre of Madrid using the blue line on the Metro system (from Gran Via to Pirimedes), before you disembark for a mere ten minute walk to the historic Stadio Vicente Calderon in the Arganzuela district of Madrid. Well when I say historic, in reality it was opened in 1966, but it feels and looks older. The steep rake of the stands hang over the pitch, but concrete is evident everywhere, particularly when climbing the steps to the upper tiers and the outside of the stadium looks rather like the Camp Nou, which in reality means it’s rather ugly.
In 2016 they plan to leave the wonderful Vicente Calderon stadium and move into the re-built La Peineta Stadium, which is planned to have a capacity of 70,000, an increase of 50K from its current 20,000.
Atletico were formed in 1903 by students from Bilbao living in Madrid. They are a team currently threatening to become one of the European biggies and certainly under ex Argentina player, coach Diego Simeone, they have been gaining respect and kudos after their Europa league win a few years ago. And their current form that sees them pushing their bitter rival Real and Barcelona all the way this season for the La Liga title. Because of the Bilbao connection Atletico also wear the same Red and White Stripes, and are nicknamed ‘The mattress makers’ because of the similarity with old-fashioned striped mattresses, apparently! The stadium has the Manzanares river running alongside, as well as a motorway, neither apparent or visible from our position high up in the middle tier.
Whatever their long term ambitions, today, certainly in the first half Atletico looked far from a European giant. Valencia had the edge all over the pitch, and shaded the half. Action in the penalty areas was very thin on the ground, and I was starting to worry that our wonderful sunny weekend (to celebrate my 51st) in this great city would be spoilt by a dull nil all to take home to England. I needn’t have worried, as I suspect some harsh Argentinian Spanish were spoken at half time, as Atletico looked a different proposition in the second half. Diego Costa looked a very fine player, very direct with the ball at his feet. Apparently he has been linked with a move to England (which he has denied any interest in), and on this performance displayed a very English type of game, and he was the dominant performer.
It didn’t take long, just fourteen minutes into the second half as Costa ran towards and into the Valencia box before cutting a shot across Diego Alves into the net, 1-0. With the Ultras now enthusiastically urging the rest of the crowd and team on, just five minutes later it was two as Raul Garcia, took advantage of a mis hit defensive clearance to snap a shot from 10 yards into the back of the net, 2-0. Not long after this, Costa had the chance to make it three from the spot as Victor Ruiz conceded a penalty, but a good save from Diego Alves kept it to two, at least for the time being.
Nine minutes from time, another penalty was conceded, and this time Costa made no mistake by blasting the ball into the roof of the net, 3-0. A scoreline we really had not expected at half time. Valencia coach Miroslav Djukic was relieved of his job after this defeat, and the points sent Atletico joint top with Barcelona. Only time will tell if they will be able to sustain the challenge and break the domination of Barca and Real. The game finished at 22:50 local time, and such was the efficiency of the local metro system we were back in our central hotel by 23:30 🙂