Atlético Madrid lost 1-0 to UE Cornellà on Wednesday night in the Copa del Rey, making this the second season in a row in which the LaLiga giants have been humbled by Segunda B opposition.
Despite a strong-looking 11, Atlético were unable to avoid another humiliating loss after last January’s defeat to Cultural Leonesa. Former Atleti B defender Adrián Jiménez was the goalscorer on this occasion when he volleyed home after eight minutes. Atlético, replete with several stars, were unable to unlock a well-organised and, at times, ambitious Cornellà side.
“We always look to win,” Diego Simeone said after the game. “But our opponent deserved to go through, like last season. They had chances, they started very well, they competed well. They played the game they wanted to play, maintained their intensity and you have to congratulate them.
“When your opponent gets the better of you, you have to congratulate them.”
João Félix, Renan Lodi, Saúl Ñíguez, Felipe Monteiro and Ángel Correa were in the starting lineup as Yannick Carrasco, Marcos Llorente, Jan Oblak, and Luis Suárez were among those rested. The Portuguese was taken off with Atlético chasing the game and was nursing a bruised ankle afterward. Meanwhile, Ricard Sánchez was sent off for a second yellow in the second half, making Atlético’s task more difficult.
Miguel San Román started in goal with Ivo Grbić, the second-choice keeper before a positive coronavirus test, on the bench. Ivan Šaponjić came off the bench in the second half and added a direct threat, and 18-year-old Mario Soriano looked lively upon his introduction in Félix’s place. Yet, Atlético could not break down their hosts.
Saúl, who has struggled in recent months, admitted as much after the game.
“The team is in a good moment,” he said. “But I’m not in a good moment. The team needed someone other than Saúl Ñíguez, and I have to work. I have to improve and be good, above all mentally, but aside from that I’m good.”
More concerning for Atlético fans, however, could be Cholo’s comments after the game about his future.
“You have to stay open to any eventuality,” Simeone said when asked about his future in Madrid.
Atlético remain top of the league and in pole position to win the title — but after almost a decade in charge, we’ll see if Simeone might just be thinking about his next step.
Atlético play Athletic Club at the weekend before welcoming Sevilla to the Wanda Metropolitano next Tuesday as they look to maintain their fine league form. They can focus solely on the Champions League and LaLiga now, but the inexplicable loss to Cornellà will stick in the craw for Simeone and his side.