Thursday, May 13, 2010

European Glory for Madrid

After a long, excruciating wait for a return to European glory, Madrid has found itself back among Europe's elite champions, thanks to their ex-Manchester United goal-scoring hero.

What's that you say, Real Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League way  back in the first knockout round?

But of course, I meant those cross-town losers, Atlético Madrid.

Early in the season, back in October, we wrote about the sorry state of football at the Vincent Calderon. Los rojiblancos were at the bottom of the La Liga table, and things did not look good.

However, the arrival of coach Quique Sanchez Flores has changed Atlético's fortunes, propelling them up to 9th in the table, bringing home the Europa League championship yesterday against a valiant Fulham, and a Copa del Rey final still to come.

Key to this resurgence has been the partnership between Sergio "Kun" Aguero and Diego Forlan. Forlan of course is the aforementioned goalscorer cast aside by Man U after a comical two years that saw him take eight months to score his first goal, yet he still endeared himself to the Man U faithful for his tireless work and a brace led the Red Devils to victory over Liverpool at Anfield in 2002. He's no Dimitar Berbatov, despite having actually scored fewer goals than Berbatov has for Man U.  Still, I'm not sure many people who followed his work believed he would become so  prolific once leaving England, but I guess the talent was always there.

Aguero was the danger man all game against Fulham, and it was only a matter of time before Atlético's pressure led to goals, and Forlan showed a goalscorer's instinct to win the match in extra time. It was a disappointing ending for Fulham, who had a magical run getting here with upsets and epic victories along the way over the likes of Roma, Juventus, Wolfsburg, and Hamburg. I was hoping for an American victory in the final, and though Clint Dempsey played a massive part in Fulham's run, in particular his stunning winner against Juve, but luck ran out for Dempsey and the Cottagers and Atlético's superior attacking class prevailed.

Pending the La Liga finish and Copa del Rey final, it could quite something if Real's new galactico's finish without hardware and the "other" Madrid side brings back a double.

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