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4 talking points from Atlético Madrid 4-2 Real Madrid

A memorable victory ensures progress in the Copa del Rey.

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid CF - Copa del Rey Photo by DAX Images/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid secured an unforgettable 4-2 victory over Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey on Thursday night, winning in extra-time to complete a dramatic Madrid derby — the third meeting between the teams this season.

The Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano was rocking as Samuel Lino and Álvaro Morata scored, with the help of Antonio Rüdiger, either side of a Jan Oblak own goal on the stroke of half-time. Joselu equalised late on, but the real joy came as Antoine Griezmann countered to give Atlético the lead for a third time and Rodrigo Riquelme killed the game off at the death.

Here are four of the key talking points from the game.

1. Two number sevens

There were two number sevens on the field on Thursday night. One was at the heart of the action: dancing, diving, abusing ball boys. The other was quietly getting on with the job at hand.

“I am the number seven,” one said. “I’m so good, my word,” the same one shouted into the crowds moments later.

But less than 15 minutes after that, their paths would cross. The man in red and white would take the ball out of his feet, rampage forward and score the match-winning goal. While one had pointed to the name and number on the back of his shirt, the other took it off to kiss the club crest on the front.

Antoine Griezmann produced a leader’s performance, turning up in the big moments and winning the game for his team even then he looked completely and utterly physically exhausted. Such moments are what his legacy will be built upon.

The abuse thrown towards Vinícius Jr. is, of course, unjustified and unacceptable, but he could do with taking a leaf out of Griezmann’s book to show the same humility and maturity that has seen him earn respect at home and away.

2. Two magnificent midfield performances

The theme in recent Madrid derbies has been a case of he who wins the midfield battle, wins the game. In this case, Koke and Rodrigo de Paul made sure that the pair of them won the match for Atlético.

A combined 150 completed passes between the two of them showed their domination in the game, with nobody registering more completed passes than Koke (93) or more tackles (five) to show his domination across every aspect of play.

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid CF - Copa del Rey Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The veteran led by example in every respect and was the first man to be cheering on his team-mates and the fans in the stands. The incredible Metropolitano atmosphere came about in part thanks to him.

De Paul’s fine form continued too, and he created three separate chances and had one of his own with a header inside the box which forced Andriy Lunin into action. The Argentine is coming into his own, and seeing him pacing up and down the touchline in extra-time showed his new-found comfort in the team.

3. Real Madrid’s defensive kryptonite, and credit for Diego “General Zod” Simeone

It is no secret that Atlético are potent in attack this season, finding ways past even the best of defences, but the way in which they have harmed Real Madrid is baffling. Despite Los Blancos losing several key players to injury, they have had the best defensive record in Spain this year, yet have now conceded three or more in all three meetings with Atleti.

Part of that credit goes to Atleti’s offensive players, such as Morata, who once again stood out as one of the star men for the Colchoneros. He had a well-taken goal and should really have had another only moments before Joselu’s equaliser, which would have finished off Real Madrid.

But, substantially, much of the credit should go to Diego Simeone. The coach has found a way to outsmart Carlo Ancelotti with his offensive tactics in a way which no other coach has in Spain or across Europe.

Sure, there was a minor element of fortune about some of the goals on this occasion, but it was Atleti’s brave approach of sticking balls into the box with cross after cross that forced the errors from a nervy Madrid backline. There is no such thing as coincidence, after all.

4. Can Atlético Madrid win the Copa del Rey?

After this win, the big question is just how far can Atlético go in the competition this season. With holders Real Madrid out and Barcelona struggling for form, the Rojiblancos could now consider themselves favourites to win the title for the first time since 2013.

Sevilla are a beatable opponent in the next round, and the good news keeps coming as one of Athletic Club and Barcelona, both top four rivals in LALIGA, won’t make it to the semi-final. That leaves the major threats as Girona (who take on Mallorca), and Real Sociedad (who play Celta Vigo).

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid CF - Copa del Rey Photo by DAX Images/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Atleti fans are craving silverware following consecutive trophy-less campaigns, and there are only four fixtures between the Colchoneros and winning the Copa del Rey at this point. Everyone has seen that Atleti are capable of turning it on and playing at an exceptionally high level, especially at home, and this format suits that.

Simeone will have to rotate a slim and tiring squad if he is to reach the final and hope to win the cup, but it will be a real achievement — and one that seems realistic — if he can pull it off.