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"Land of Fire" show in Camp Nou, ardent Atletico claims title in Spain

19 May 2014 [10:00] - TODAY.AZ
In a match that will forever live in lore along the Manzanares, Atlético Madrid claimed the La Liga title for the 10th time in history following their 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the season finale on Saturday at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.

A 49th minute header from Diego Godín cancelled out Alexis Sánchez's wondergoal in the 33rd moment to earn Los Colchoneros domestic honors based on a superior goal-average in the two league matches between the teams.

Saturday's draw also ensured that Atlético kept an unbeaten record versus Barcelona during the 2013-14 season in all competitions, with five draws and one victory.

Barcelona head coach Gerardo Martino raised a few eyebrows upon divulging his starting XI which excluded both Xavi and Jordi Alba, although the latter has just recuperated from an injury. Instead, the Argentine boss opted for a midfield three of Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta while Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano and Adriano composed the back four in front of goalkeeper Pinto. In attack, it was Pedro, Lionel Messi and Sánchez slotting up front.

For the visitors, Atlético manager Diego Simeone penciled in an attacking duo of Diego Costa and David Villa while Tiago and Gabi manned the center of the pitch with Koke out wide to the left and Arda Turan on the right wing. Juanfran, Joao Miranda, Godín and Filipe Luís made up the back with trusted goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in between the sticks.

In what was a nightmare start for Simeone, two Atlético players had to be substituted off within the first half hour due to injuries. First it was Costa, who had been battling fitness issues for the last few weeks, pulling up on a counterattack in the 14th minute. The Brazilian-born striker was forced to leave the match and was replaced by Diego. Incredibly, Atlético's injury bug reared its head again just eight minutes later when Turan slumped to the turf in pain and had to be replaced by Raúl García.

Yet Atlético continued to frustrate the Barcelona attack until the 34th minute when a bit of brilliance from Sánchez gave the hosts a 1-0 lead. Fabregas played a ball into the area to Messi who chested it to Sánchez and the Chilean rocketed in a shot from the slimmest of angles that went whizzing past the head of Courtois and into the back of the net.

The Barcelona prompted the need for a response from Atlético and the Colchoneros pressed hard for an equalizer with the final five minutes of the half being the brightest for Simeone's men, however a goal was not to be found before the halftime whistle.

Atlético came out with a purpose in the second half and a Villa shot that smacked off the post just one minute into the second stanza served as a warning. Three minutes later in the 49th minute, there was no woodwork to save the thumping header from Godín off a corner kick that bounced past Pinto and into the net to level the score and send the few Atlético fans in attendance into a frenzied celebration.

In search of a goal, Martino rolled the dice substituting in Neymar for Pedro in the 62nd minute, as the Brazilian's full fitness was in doubt prior to the match. Barcelona hunted for the second goal and thought they had it in the 64th through Messi but the Argentine was ruled offside. The Catalonians continued to pour forward as their season dwindled down. Pique had a shout for a penalty in the 84th minute but referee Mateu Lahoz shook his head and signaled for a goal kick.

With every ball contested fiercely, the two teams poured everything they had into their play that resembled more of an epic heavyweight bout than a football match. In the end, it would be Simeone's warriors who stood tallest, clinching the long-awaited crown with hard-nosed defending to earn the club a championship that they and their fans will forever savor.


/Marca/

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