Back in January, Atlético claimed its maiden Spanish Supercup after defeating Levante 3-0 in the final. This triumph could have been taken as a sign of things to come for a team that had reappointed José Luis Sánchez Vera as coach, brought in creative Italian midfielder Tatiana Bonetti and a trio of players – Aminata Diallo, Rasheedat Ajibade and Njoya Ajara Ncout – that delighted the Atlético fans in their opening appearances in the Super Cup.
Nonetheless, in a span of two months, the team has been dumped out in a stunning manner from the UEFA Women’s Champions League and is sitting fifth in the league, six points from Real Madrid in third place – which is the final Champions League spot offered in Liga Iberdrola.
In the Champions League last 16, Atlético faced Chelsea — just like the men’s team — with the first leg being played away in England. Things looked ideal when Chelsea were already a player down after 12 minutes, and the Spanish side awarded a penalty. However, Deyna Castellanos couldn’t beat goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger, and Chelsea went on to win 2-0 with goals from Maren Mjelde (who converted a penalty herself) and Fran Kirby. Atlético midfielder Merel van Dongen missed another penalty in the closing stages of the game.
The second leg, played in Monza, Italy due to coronavirus measures, was déjà vu for the Madrid-based side. With the game still goalless, Atlético were given a lifeline with Toni Duggan ready from the penalty spot to pull back a goal. However, Atlético made it three misses from as many penalties following Duggan’s failure to convert, with Chelsea instantly going up the other end and forging ahead…from a penalty.
Emelyne Laurent scored Atlético’s consolation goal in stoppage time, but Chelsea were already home and dry.
Domestic failure, Torrecilla smile
Atlético’s dip in league form came to the fore immediately after their impressive 3-0 win over Sevilla.
Levante, who were runners-up to Atlético in the Super Cup, went on to dispatch of Sánchez Vera’s team with a 3-0 victory in the rematch. Despite beating Eibar 2-1 in the following game, Atleti went on to draw 2-2 with Granadilla, lose 1-0 to Santa Teresa on home soil before bouncing back with two straight victories against Valencia (4-1) and Real Betis (4-0).
The Betis game was an emotional one as Ángela Sosa, the former long-serving Atlético player who is now at the Seville-based club, reunited with her former companions, including Virginia Torrecilla, who has been recovering from brain surgery in recent months.
On a bright and welcoming note, however, Torrecilla announced that she has finished her cancer treatment and that her return to the pitch is edging closer.
Shifting back to the domestic campaign, Atlético’s two straight wins had propelled them into the top four as the highly-anticipated Madrid derby against Real Madrid loomed.
It was imperative for Sánchez Vera’s side to win to move into the Champions League spots. But a Sofia Jakobsson goal handed Real a narrow away win to dent Atlético’s chances of qualifying for next season’s elite club competition.