By Mark Doyle
Atletico Madrid had not beaten Real Madrid for 14 years before Friday night. Their belated derby success was worth the wait. The Rojiblancos not only beat their city rivals, they did so in the Copa del Rey final. At the Santiago Bernabeu. After Madrid had completely lost their heads. As far as Atletico fans are concerned, success does not get any sweeter than this.
Madrid’s frustration was understandable - to a point - given what had unfolded on the field during an enthralling 120 minutes of non-stop action in the Spanish capital.
Los Blancos had opened the scoring with the type of towering header that Cristiano Ronaldo has made his trademark. However, little went right for ‘His Airness Mark II' or Madrid thereafter. Radamel Falcao - in perhaps his last meaningful game for some time - teed up Diego Costa for a wonderfully-constructed equaliser on 35 minutes.
Then Mesut Ozil struck the base of the post on 43 minutes. Then Karim Benzema struck the base of the post on 61 minutes. Then Ronaldo struck the base of the post on 69 minutes.
With Thibaut Courtois also making one logic-defying save after another, Madrid’s, and Ronaldo's, frustration only intensified and the Portuguese lashed out on four separate occasions in 20 minutes before being belatedly booked for dissent just before the game went to extra time.
It was as if Ronaldo knew that this was not to be his night and, petulant child that he is when things are not going his way, he did not like it one bit. Indeed, there was an air of inevitability about not only Atletico’s winner - a fine near-post header from Joao Miranda after the most delightfully-flighted cross from Koke - but also Ronaldo’s subsequent dismissal.
As red cards go, it was harsh, with Gabi, who was sent off himself in the dying seconds, having made the proverbial meal of what little contact there had been. But it had been coming, just like Madrid’s implosion.
There was a sense of entitlement about their approach to the game, as so wonderfully underlined by Ronaldo’s typically spoilt reaction to the post having the audacity to get in the way of his ingenious free kick, and Madrid reacted in predictably petulant fashion.
Blancos boss Jose Mourinho was sent to stands after his attempts to control the referee proved as successful as his attempts to control his players this season, thus leaving Pepe to take centre stage during the touchline fracas that followed Ronaldo's dismissal - even though the centre-half hadn't even been included in the matchday squad having taken Iker Casillas' side in the club captain's ongoing standoff with their coach.
Madrid as a whole had seen red and, again, it had been coming. Indeed, this was a fittingly chaotic end to a dreadfully chaotic season that had begun with hopes of a 10th European Cup and yet finished with their city rivals claiming a 10th Copa del Rey. As far as Atletico fans are concerned, irony does not get any more delicious than that.