Atletico Madrid wins La Liga title for the first time since 2014 in a dramatic final day

Author : pelemi4868
Publish Date : 2021-05-23 19:11:55

Atletico Madrid wins La Liga title for the first time since 2014 in a dramatic final day

(CNN)After a drama-filled final day of the La Liga season, Atletico Madrid was eventually crowned champion for the first time since 2014.

Needing to better city rivals, Real Madrid's result, Atletico won 2-1 away at Real Valladolid while Real won 2-1 at home to Europa League finalists Villarreal.
It wasn't plain sailing for Diego Simeone's side, conceding early to Valladolid. But almost at the same time, Real conceded a shock goal to Villarreal's Yeremi Pino.
And in a dramatic second half, Angel Correa drew Atletico level while Real thought it had also drawn level through Karim Benzema's header -- the goal was eventually ruled out through the video assistant referee for offside.
Luis Suarez capitalized on some sloppy build up to seal the win for Atletico, and ensure the La Liga title was heading to the red and white side of the Spanish capital.
"The world is going through a different phase right now so if we can give some joy to people it means so much to us," Atletico manager Simeone said afterwards.
"Thirty-two players I think have been involved, every one as important as the other. I am extremely grateful."
READ: Robert Lewandowski breaks 49-year goal-scoring record with 41st goal of the season

To and fro
Beginning two days head of city rival Real, Atletico knew if it won, it was title winners for the first time in seven years.
And heading to Real Valladolid, a site who was in its own relegation battle, it would've been quietly confident.
However, after 18 minutes, it was pinned back by a quick counterattack which was capped off with Óscar Plano running from halfway line to slide past Jan Oblak in goal.
Almost simultaneously, Real was also falling behind after some sloppy defending let in Pino to stab home.
Early into the second half, Real thought it had moved into pole position after talisman striker Benzema headed it level with Villarreal.

However, the France international was adjudged to have leaned offside from the deep cross, leaving Real still behind.
Meanwhile, Atletico itself did actually draw level, Correa's stabbed effort sparking jubilant celebrations with players and coaches.
And knowing that two Real goals would swing the title in its favor, the nerves were high with Atletico.
But those were put to ease after the experienced Suarez, who moved from Barcelona in the summer, ran through to put Atletico ahead.
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Benzema reacts after missing an opportunity.
After playing out the final 20 minutes -- in which Benzema did actually draw Real level before Luka Modric claimed a late winner -- the Atletico players could finally celebrate the momentous title victory, its first since 2014.
It's the club's 11th title victory in its history.

Some five thousand fans gathered in the car park outside the Jose Zorilla Stadium while inside Diego Simeone and their boys were involved in a clash that required full points to win the La Liga title since that eventful 2013-14 season. The opposition was Ronaldo Nazario’s Real Valladolid and in such a topsy-turvy season any outcomes were possible.

Two matches – Real Madrid vs Villarreal and Atletico Madrid vs Real Valladolid started at the same time and the players and fans whoever followed one particular match, always kept themselves updated for the other contest.

When Valladolid and Villarreal took the lead at Jose Zorilla and Alfredo Di Stefano respectively, the tension increased and offered a thrilling contest.

In the 57th minute a Karim Benzema goal was ruled out for offside at Alfredo Di Stefano while at Jose Zorilla Angel Di Correa equalized for Atleti. Frustration mounted at one venue while confidence grew at the other – ten minutes the charismatic Luis Suarez gave Atleti the lead while Real Madrid were still trailing by 0-1.

In the dying moments of the game, Benzema equalized and in the injury time, Luka Modric gave Los Blancos the lead, but Valladolid were needed to beat Atleti, which they could not and thus, the new champions of this season’s La Liga are Atletico Madrid.

Kudos to Real Madrid for the way they fought hard till the end despite 62 injuries this season, but nevertheless, Atleti deserved the title more than any other teams in the La Liga this season.

Since winning the La Liga title in 2014, Diego Simeone’s side came close to achieve glories quite a few times, but in the end, it never really happened because Real Madrid and Barcelona had their fair amount of rosy moments.

The Suarez effect

Simeone started this season with a different intent and the arrival of Luis Suarez prompted him to think about his plans differently.

He was needed to build a system that would suit Suarez the most.

He changed his formation from 4-4-2 to 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 which would have better coverage of the field and more players close to Suarez in the attacking half while still being safe during a transition moment.

This has led to Atletico having more possession and play more passes in the opponent’s half than in the past.

The change injected a positive impact on their possession which increased to 50% in comparison to last season’s 47% while average passes per possession increased from 3.87 to 5.15. Meanwhile, average passes in the final third increased from 53.13 to 62.1.

This all happened due to the Suarez effect.

By having so many players around him Suarez can play in his favorite style where he finds spaces and either dropped between the lines to help his team keep possession or attacks the small spaces in the box to finish chances. He is a player that only needs a bit of time and space to finish a chance.

Despite changing their style into a more possession-oriented style in the opponent’s half, they can still utilize a direct approach when necessary to expose space in the opponent’s backline. They often will start a small build-up to attract pressure before sending a direct pass forward to exploit gaps in the opponent’s last line of defense.

It has worked till the end.

Solid defensive display

Defensive solidity and at times being pretty bloody-minded have always been the hallmark of Atletico under Simeone.

The plan for a three-man defence gave Simeone a better chance to deal with the defensive transitions they countered and enabled them to have higher wing-backs and do a better job controlling possession in the attacking half while being more secure in the back.

Furthermore, with their quick aggressive pressure on the ball when they lose it and the work rate that has characterized Atletico all these years with players running back quickly, they will be able to deal with defensive transition moments effectively.

But with a three-man backline, he needed more coverage than before during the counter and which means that when in their defensive organization in their own half they can sit in a low 5-4-1 or a 5-3-2 defensively which gives them more security especially when they are defending a lead.

During the zonal and man-marking, where many teams tend to favor one over the other which often can expose them against certain opponents, with Atletico a combination of both is key to their defensive solidity.

They had done a great job covering the right zones but at the same time, the players were man-oriented in those zones which allowed them to pressure immediately a player on the ball and take away many passing options to their opponent’s which made decision-making for the player on the ball hard and ultimately leads to loss of possession.

Another strong aspect of Simeone’s defensive game is knowing as a team when to press high and when to sit deeper.

This rate of pressing has dropped this year due to Suarez not being given too much responsibility to press; instead, he usually shields the defensive midfielder and only presses in certain situations.

The never say die attitude

At one point Atleti were well ahead of others in La Liga, still, midway through the season they started to suffer and it seemed that they would choke again, but when it mattered, they never lost points whereas teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona either lost or dropped points against opponents that were meant to be beaten.  Bagging those points worked in favour of Simeone and when the chips were down the whole team rallied together and kept on fighting.

The winning mentality and never say die attitude always existed and during the crucial phases of the league, they handled the pressure better.

Simeone and Suárez lead Atlético to La Liga title as Real fall short
Only the second time in 17 years that a team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid have won Spanish league crown, with Atléti claiming the other one under Simeone in 2014. 

Atlético Madrid won La Liga, Diego Simeone secured his second Spanish League crown as coach and Luis Suárez found vindication, with the latter's goal securing a 2-1 victory over Real Valladolid on Saturday that clinched another remarkable title. 

Suárez began the season crying after being forced out of Barcelona but ended it with his 21st goal of the season earning Atlético a first league triumph since 2014, this one at the expense of Real Madrid. 

Atlético knew victory would guarantee them the title regardless of what Real Madrid did at home to Villarreal but it was never comfortable, with Valladolid taking a shock early lead. 

Real Madrid were behind too for most of the afternoon but Karim Benzema equalised in the 87th minute and Luka Modric even scored a late winner for 2-1 at Valdebebas, leaving Atlético hanging on at the end, as they were suddenly one goal away from squandering it all. 

When the final whistle blew, the players ran onto the pitch, Suárez underneath a pile of red and white shirts, with Europe's most nerve-wracking and unpredictable title race finally complete. 

Just over a week ago, coach Diego Simeone said this was the "Suárez Zone" and so it proved, the Uruguayan scoring the winner against Osasuna last week to keep the title in Atletico's hands and then again on the last day to put their name on the trophy. 

This is only the second time in 17 years that a team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid have won the title, with Atléti claiming the other one under Simeone in 2014. 

Atlético went into the game having been top since December and on the back of beating Osasuna with two goals in the last eight minutes, a victory that was so dramatic it felt like it would prove decisive. 

But Atlético have done nothing the easy way this season, with their 10-point lead in February cut to two in May and their position at the top of the table relying on numerous slip-ups from both Real Madrid and Barcelona.

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