MADRID — Many issues occurred on the Wanda Metropolitano in the ultimate 10 or 20 minutes, those that appeared to stretch on and on, long gone the ultimate whistle, till they virtually constituted one other self-contained bonus sport, a separate third installment of a scheduled two-part drama.
There was some hair-pulling. There was numerous time-wasting. There was a full-scale brawl, dozens and dozens of gamers and group workers members all streaming all the way down to a nook of the sector to make their opinions identified. There was a flurry of yellow playing cards, and a vibrant, indignant pink. There was Diego Simeone, conducting his orchestra, urging the stadium to bay and to howl and to snarl till the final breath.
What there was not, the one factor lacking, was a lot precise soccer. There had been flashes, in fact, Atlético Madrid charging ahead, desperately looking the purpose that may break Manchester City’s resistance and take the sport into additional time, lengthen their keep in the Champions League for one more half-hour or, simply possibly, one other few weeks. For essentially the most half, although, these limitless previous couple of minutes had been a research in the artwork of not taking part in soccer.
That is, in fact, very a lot a part of Atlético Madrid’s id. Simeone has spent a decade crafting a group in his personal picture, one which performs, simply as he did, with a “knife between its teeth.”
Atlético ought to, by rights, be a heroic underdog amongst Europe’s elite, a countercultural various to the hegemony of urgent and possession. It doesn’t, in any case, have the sources of its overweening neighbor, Real Madrid, not to mention the state-backed clout of Manchester City or Paris St.-Germain, and but it refuses to wilt, to succumb to monetary inevitability.
It is a potent testomony to Simeone’s work, then, and to the good effectiveness of his inculcation, that his group can so simply and so continuously play the position of the Champions League’s apparent villain: a facet of cynics, provocateurs and cutthroats, designed and constructed to attract the sweetness and the soul from the sport, completely happy to subvert any norm out there in pursuit of victory, and in defiance of conference, its opponents and the sport’s sense of ethical rectitude.
And but, in all the hearth and fury, it was not solely Atlético that realized that a spot in the semifinals hung not on expertise and method however on grit and grizzle, on a willingness to do no matter it takes.
There is not any group extra related to magnificence than Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. He has come, over time, to face as an embodiment of soccer’s greater values, its final arbiter of style, its aesthete in chief. Guardiola means sophistication and elegance, and he has imbued all of that into the group he has constructed.
Those weren’t the virtues, although, that allowed his group to flee Madrid unscathed, its place in a Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid secured, its chase for a home and European treble intact. City didn’t beat Atlético by overcoming its darkish arts. It beat Atlético by borrowing them.
Some of them, not less than. Just like its host, Guardiola’s group, for as soon as, didn’t appear particularly in taking part in soccer, both. It performed, as an alternative, for time. Every throw-in appeared to take an age, and each free kick and each purpose kick, too. No harm was shaken off; even essentially the most minor bump and bruise warranted an prolonged interval of remedy. Balls that had run out of play had been knocked just a bit farther down the road, out of the attain of Atlético’s gamers. No slight was too minor to not be met with indignation.
That shouldn’t be learn as a criticism of Manchester City; removed from it. Often, it’s so straightforward to be dazzled by the brilliance of Guardiola’s facet that its character, its braveness, is neglected. His document in the Premier League, in specific, in latest years has been constructed as a lot on defensive parsimony as attacking risk. City doesn’t wilt and it doesn’t doubt; it retains going, remorselessly, absolute in its conviction that will probably be proved proper in the tip.
As the Metropolitano — this smooth, trendy stadium constructed by the success of Simeone — one way or the other morphed into the Vicente Calderón, Atlético’s crumbling, intimidating, nakedly hostile former residence, what carried City via was not its magic however its mettle. That is as a lot a part of Guardiola’s recipe as the rest.
And nor, for that matter, ought to it’s learn as a criticism of Atlético. “What matters more than anything in soccer is winning,” Simeone stated after the sport, not lengthy after the gamers had confronted one another in the tunnel as soon as extra. “It does not matter how you do it.”
Even Guardiola conceded that Atlético had come near successful, that it may need scored, may need gained, if it had solely possessed just a bit extra luck. “They had the actions to score,” he stated. “We had to live this situation. We had to suffer. We were in big, big trouble.” On one other night time, in one other world, he appeared to say, the whole lot might have been very totally different.
That Simeone’s group had been in a position to run City so shut was not regardless of its brinkmanship, however due to it. As Atlético did what it does, in these closing jiffy, because the sense of concern exterior the steep concrete banks of the Metropolitano began to construct, so too did the noise inside it. The crowd responded to its group’s snapping and growling, ratcheting up the stress just a bit extra, shifting issues imperceptibly in the host’s favor. Atlético shouldn’t be the way in which it’s for enjoyable. It is the way in which it’s as a result of it really works.
“They know how to do this better than any other team in the world,” Guardiola stated. Nobody, wherever, doesn’t play soccer higher than Atlético Madrid.
Guardiola sounded impressed, in a approach. He is aware of there are occasions when that’s what issues, that’s what counts. He is aware of that his group will, at occasions, must be a bit of like Atlético Madrid whether it is to return right here and have fun once more in a couple of weeks’ time, whether it is to climb the one peak it’s but to scale, to assert the Champions League.