Many football fans want to see the game played in ‘the right way’, with teams passing the ball, showing flair and scoring plenty of goals.
Atletico Madrid’s triumph over Barcelona in UEFA Champions League quarter-finals will probably be labelled as anti-football by lovers of ‘the beautiful game’ but Diego Simeone’s team succeeded in playing smart.
Simeone’s team did attack early on in the game and Koke scored the solitary goal after just five minutes.
Once Gerardo Martino’s side got into the match, Atleti was pegged back but the defence held out. Simeone’s men defended resolutely and attacked only when it was necessary.
It is a great rarity for any team to dominate Barcelona in possession so ‘parking the bus’ was the best option for Atleti.
Atletico Madrid also happens to be a bogey team for the Catalan giants so if there was one team that stood a chance of beating Barca, it would be Los Colchoneros.
It is very easy for neutrals to criticise a team who wins by playing defensive. Usually that criticism is aimed at Italian teams, probably because they have had enough talent to beat teams by attacking the opposition or because they get unstuck when they sit on 1-0 leads.
Despite their form in La Liga, Los Colchoneros were the underdogs in this quarter-final tie. Although Barca has shown signs of decline in the last two seasons, any team that includes Neymar, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Bayern Munich is probably the only side in the last couple of years to smash Barcelona in possession in the last few years, as illustrated in its 7-0 aggregate win in last season’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
Atleti is not the type of side that can go on a passing carousel. What Simeone’s side did was limit Barca’s space and the impact of its stars, especially Messi.
To win playing beautiful football is great but not everybody can do it. Atletico Madrid didn’t need to out-pass Barcelona to beat the Catalans.
Simeone came with a plan and stifled Martino’s team. Call it defensive or ugly but Simeone used his brain. He was smart.