Atlético Madrid led for much of Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal at the Santiago Bernabéu, but Real Madrid launched a trademark late comeback to win the match 3-1 in extra time and advance to the semifinals.
Álvaro Morata finished off a wonderful team move to open the scoring with a back-post finish in the 19th minute, but Rodrygo Goes responded with a sensational individual goal on 78 minutes, leaving Axel Witsel and Mario Hermoso in his wake. After Stefan Savić was sent off, Karim Benzema then tapped in at the back post to give Madrid a 103rd-minute lead.
Finally, Vinícius Jr. — who had been subjected to more abhorrent racist behavior from far-right Atlético “supporters” earlier in the day — completed the scoring with a composed finish through Reinildo’s legs in the 121st minute.
“We played a very good game until the 70th minute,” Diego Simeone told the media after the match.
Simeone was upset that referee César Soto Grado did not show Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos a second yellow card with 20 minutes left in normal time and Atlético nursing a 1-0 lead. Ceballos cut down Thomas Lemar outside the penalty area and made no effort to win the ball.
Making matters worse, the Rojiblancos then suffered a sending-off of their own when Savić was shown a second yellow card for a 99th-minute tackle on left-back Eduardo Camavinga.
Atlético been falling around the place but that's probably a second yellow for Ceballos. Lemar had possession in a dangerous position if he's not fouled.— Robbie Dunne (@robbiejdunne) January 26, 2023
¿Por Ceballos no vio la segunda amarilla?— Pável Fernández (@PavelFdez) January 26, 2023
1. La entrada es imprudente, no temeraria.
2. Lemar no tiene el balón controlado.
3. No es ataque prometedor claro.
4. El CTA quiere que las segundas tarjetas sean CLARAS Y MERIDIANAS.
¡A dormir todo el mundo!pic.twitter.com/1Shaden7l8
“Ceballos did not receive a yellow card and we would have been left with an extra man,” Simeone lamented. “Until Rodrygo’s goal, the team generated many good things. But as the game progressed, it was more difficult to sustain it with one less man, although the team had the courage to go for the game.”
Atlético had outplayed Real Madrid in the first half and were good value for the advantage — which came after Molina settled down a Koke ball over the top into the penalty area and lightly crossed it to an open Morata. But after Simeone withdrew Morata for Witsel, Atleti began to retreat and invite more pressure, opening the door for another of Madrid’s remontadas.
“Madrid started to play,” El Cholo said. “It’s a team that normally plays well and has the chance to attack, but before that, there is a decisive play by Ceballos that goes unnoticed, and nobody cares ... We wanted to insist, and we sought to tie the game, but we gave everything and that leaves us calm.
“We always take these (knockout games) against Madrid to extra time, to a place of difficulty. It fills me with pride, because the team competed to win.”
However, some are doubting that Simeone will lead Atlético out for many more games like this one. The coach’s future has been a talking point over the past year, and despite his happiness with Thursday’s display, the fact remains that the team is out of the running for every competition before the start of February.
“We are out of the Champions League and the Cup, we have the entire second half of the season left to reach the goal (of finishing top four). Then we’ll look at what’s best for all of us ... Until the day I leave, I will give everything for the team and the club,” he said.
Simeone, sobre el futuro del Atleti:— Relevo (@relevo) January 26, 2023
"Miraremos lo que nos conviene a todos". pic.twitter.com/OKNKfgvjB1
Atlético are level on points with Villarreal for fourth place in LaLiga and hold a three-point edge over Betis and cup semifinalists Osasuna. The Rojiblancos travel to El Sadar to play the latter in a huge match on Sunday.