If you could have asked me at the start of the season where I thought Atlético Madrid Femenino would be come June, I would’ve placed my bet on them being (a close) second to FC Barcelona Femení in the table. I would’ve also lost a lot of money.
Atlético sit in fifth, 30 points off of Barcelona and 12 points away from a UEFA Women’s Champions League spot. With only three games left for them to play, all three points in each game won’t be enough to see them qualify for the Champions League, something no one could have predicted at the start of this season. They also crashed out of the Champions League, unluckily, and the Copa de La Reina which leaves them with nothing to play for this season.
Yesterday though, the Madrid side showed signs of the quality we expected to see more often this season as they came from behind to beat newly crowned Primera Iberdrola champions Barcelona in a 4-3 thriller. Sure, Barcelona had rested a lot of key players but that should not take away from how well Atléti performed to give Barcelona their first loss of the season and thus, ruin their goal of completing a perfect season. In a season with lows, this win along with that in the Super Copa, will be something José Luis Sánchez Vera and his team can look to draw inspiration from for next season.
It only took eleven minutes for the game to heat up thanks to a sumptuous goal by Amanda Sampedro. Atlético managed to get forward quickly, Barcelona failed to clear their lines and Deyna Castellanos’ lay off found Sampedro at the top of the box. With no hesitation, the No. 10 thumped the ball into the top corner, giving Sandra Paños no chance to make the save.
Barcelona were in a fighting mood though and responded with a goal of their own seven minutes later. Bruna Vilamala, getting her twelfth start of the season, cut inside onto her left before firing a shot that was deflected past Hedvig Lindahl for the equaliser.
With such a lively start to the game, you knew goals would keep coming but where they would come from and who would finish the game with all three points was still hanging in the air. Barcelona looked to have put their stamp on the game in the 36th minute when Vicky Losada’s pass cut through Atlético’s backline and freed up Asisat Oshoala for the third goal of the game. Both teams went into halftime with that scoreline intact and knowing how the season had panned out for both teams, you feared for Atlético in the second half.
Instead, it was the hosts that came out firing in the second half. Whatever José Sánchez Vera had said to them in the locker room must have been clearly heard as Atlético took the game by the scruff of its neck. Barcelona were at panic stations in the 55th minute of the game as Atlético broke quickly. Paños produced a great one-on-one save but the rebound fell to Ludmila who looked to chip the ball into an empty net. Mapi León proved to be the hero as she cleared that chip off the line and preserved Barcelona’s lead. The Catalans did not respond to that scare well and clearly didn’t make the right adjustments as four minutes later, Atlético made it 2-2. Despite their rather disappointing season, Atlético still have attackers who can punish any team in the world and this time, it was substitute Emelyne Laurent who found the finish. Kylie Strom found some space out wide before she played Laurent in and the French striker used her pace to not only out run her marker but also skip past Paños to finish from an acute angle.
Laurent’s introduction injected some much needed precision to the home side’s front line as she constantly threatened Barcelona with her pace. A fantastic last ditch tackle was needed from Leon to stop Ludmila from scoring a tap in after Laurent had once again outpaced the Barcelona defenders and it was only a matter of time before Laurent proved pivotal again. Atlético were truly in the ascendancy at this point and Leicy Santos provided a great cross for Laurent to smash in from close range after some solid attacking play from the hosts.
This game was far from over and Lluís Cortés brought in his more regular starters to try and keep their dream of a perfect season alive. Those substitutions swung the game back in Barcelona’s favour as Marta Torrejón was able to latch onto a bad attempted save by Lindahl in the 74th minute and bring the game level once again.
Deyna Castellanos has had a season to forget by her standards but throughout this campaign, she’s found the back of the net late in games to either rescue Atlético from awkward defeats or find the winner to keep their season on track. Yesterday was no different as the Venezuelan showed up once again to help her team out at a crucial moment. Substitute Toni Duggan broke through the lines from midfield and picked out Castellanos who managed to stay onside and slot the ball clinically for Atlético’s fourth. That proved to be the game winner as despite the late pressure, Barcelona could not stop themselves from slipping to their first defeat and first dropped points of a glorious campaign.
People may point to Lluís Cortés fielding a weakened team as the reason why Atlético were able to do what no other team has managed in the Primera Iberdrola but credit must go to the home side who continued to push for this win, despite being down at the break. Playing away at Atlético has never been easy for Barcelona and even with their horrible form this season, Atlético had too much pride in themselves to let Barcelona sweep them in this continued rivalry. Las Colchoneras were fully prepared to remind Barcelona that they are still their main competitors in this league and should not be written off just yet. For now, this is still “El Clásico” in the eyes of the two teams and Atlético Madrid Femenino will not let anyone forget it.