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May 17, 2014

Atletico Madrid were not to be denied, their fairytale season continues, they have fought for this like no other team. They just had to win this. In a match which could be dubbed the best final ever or the best final we all have witnessed, Atletico prevailed. They didn't have to win this and the 1-1- draw was more than enough for it. In the preview to the match I have written about the possibility of Atletico breaking down physically, make no mistake - they did! They lost Diego Costa and Arda Turan, their two best players early in the first half, they appeared like not knowing what to do, they went behind when Sanchez scored. It was all turning against them, that too in the final game of the season. But a number of times this season, they found that inner spirit to drive them back into the race and the Godin header clearly described this team's motto "Fight till we Die".

Without any doubt Barca players also gave their heart out there. After some extremely poor performance in recent matches, our boys came back to life. When Sanchez gave us the lead with a spectacular volley, it felt finally the season's turmoil will be over. But we allowed Atletico to create too much pressure on us in either side of the break and paid the price for it. For the final match of the season Martino chose to start with Pinto, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano, Cesc, Busquets, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi and Pedro. Atletico lined up with their best eleven with Courtois, Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Luis, Koke, Tiago, Gabi, Arda Turan, Villa and Diego Costa.

In my preview I wrote about the importance of Camp Nou being the 12th man, one has to admit that the atmosphere was electric. As expected Barca started at a high tempo and enjoyed more possession from the start. In the 4th minute Iniesta had the first shot, wide of target after being put forward by Pedro and Messi. In the 7th minute Adrinao tried his luck from outside the box, but it was too close to Courtois. It took almost ten minutes for Atletico to break the shackles, but when they did Mascherano was forced to clear the ball in front of Pinto. In the 15th minute Diego Costa had to be replaced by Adrian after he pulled down with injury. One needs to question whether it was proper for Simeone to risk, especially with Champions League final on next week. In the 24th minute Simeone received another blow, this time Arda Turan has to be taken off due to injury. In a matter of ten minutes, Simeone has lost two of his best players of the season. One was left to wonder whether Atletico machine was breaking down exactly at the last match of the season. Barca almost made good of those changes when Sanchez met an Alves cross in the centre, but his effort was straight at Courtois. In the 33rd minute, Sanchez a much maligned man this season, scored with a spectacular volley after Messi laid the ball to him to put Barca in charge of the match and the league. At 1-0 we had the league in our pocket and it was upto Atletico to force the issue. With Diego Costa and Turan missing, Atletico was struggling to create the kind of pressure they always used to create and their defense were getting stretched a bit by Barca attacks. The first half ended with a series of corners and subsequent pressure from Atletico players, but they were unable to create any much danger from them.

The second half started the same way the first ended - Atletico putting pressure on Barca defense. Villa in the 47th minute hit the post after some terrific technique inside the box. In the 49th minute Atletico Madrid got the most out of those enormous pressure when Godin rose above our defense to head the ball past Pinto from a Koke corner. The league was back to where it was at the start of the match. We still were very much in the game, but the problem for us was that we couldn't get out of our half. In the 58th minute Martino has to make his first substitution due to injury bringing Song for Busquets. Busquets got injured trying to prevent Godin's goal. As expected in Martino brought in Neymar in place of Pedro in the 63rd minute. In the 64th minute Messi thought he has put Barca back in front, but was ruled out for a marginal offside. After the initial series of pressure Atletico had cooled down and we were taking back the control. In the 72nd minute Simeone made his final change of the night with Sosa taking the place of Adriano, who came in for Diego Costa. In the 77th minute Xavi was brought in for Cesc Fabregas. In the 81st minute Alves forced a good save from Courtois with a long range effort. In the 86th minute there was an almighty scramble in Atletico box, but Godin was able to clear the danger. It was wave after wave of Barca attack, but Atletico always found way to clear it. It just wasn't happening for us.

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