For 16 minutes, Barcelona were champions thanks to a fantastic Alexis Sanchez goal. But this season had one direction, and one deserving champion: Atletico Madrid. Diego Godin scored early in the second half and a 1-1 draw meant that the Colchoneros were champions for the first time in 18 years, managing to avoid defeat against the previous title holders for a sixth time this season.
Diego Simeone was a player for Atletico Madrid the last time they won a championship. He changed the mentality of the club once taking over, helping a team overcome the huge financial differences between them and the Real Madrid – Barcelona duopoly. There is still a chance to win more, in the Champions League final against their city rivals, but no matter what happens next week, it’s a historic day to see 97,000 Barcelona fans applauding a rival that bested Barcelona almost every time the two have met this season.
Diego Costa couldn’t run and left the pitch after 16 minutes. Arda Turan joined him after picking up a knock in the 23rd minute. Atletico lost their two most important players on offense in the span of seven minutes. From that moment until the end of the first half, Atletico Madrid couldn’t hold possession in their opponents half. Barcelona didn’t play very well as Cesc Fabregas was anemic, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi covered too well and Xavi looking on from the bench, but sometimes you don’t have to play well to score.
All you need is talent, and Alexis Sanchez scored a brilliant goal from a very tight angle to change the face of a season out of nowhere. Maybe Barcelona’s biggest problem was not being able to make the most of those minutes in which Atletico Madrid were shocked. Simeone said something to his team in the locker room, and it was a different match in the second half.
Diego Godin scored a goal that might become one of the most memorable in the lore of this club, rising alone in the far corner where no Barcelona defender or Pinto had any chance of reaching him, giving Atletico Madrid a goal that turned out to be worth a championship.
Barcelona got better with Neymar and especially Xavi on the pitch. Lionel Messi scored a goal that was disallowed for offside, making it yet another match he failed to score against Spain’s best team. The pressure was on and Barcelona got a few semi-chances to turn things around, but as Rasheed Wallace loves to say, Ball don’t lie. Atletico Madrid were better when it mattered, and came away as the champions by playing better than Barcelona once more.