FEATURE | Madrid Derby — The 2013 Cup Final That Changed Everything

Atlético Madrid are the only club to have broken up the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga in the last decade. Their 2013/14 triumph still represents one of the great underdog triumphs in modern European football. 

But it’s up for debate whether that triumph could even have happened without the springboard that winning the 2013 Copa del Rey Final gave them.

Sure they may have won the Europa League in 2010 and 2012, but these triumphs barely registered on a domestic scene where Barcelona and Real Madrid were making breaking records a habit. 

But the 2013 final arguably changed the course of Atlético’s history.

A Madrid Derby in the cup final is a rare enough occurrence, but this one took on extra significance. For Real Madrid, it represented their last chance for major silverware to salvage something from a season that had been overshadowed by José Mourinho very publicly burning his bridges with the club, most notably by dropping the once untouchable club captain Iker Casillas. 

For Atlético however, it was a chance to reverse a losing streak against their rivals which stretched back 26 games over 13 and a half years. 

The last occasion they had managed to get one over on Madrid was late in 1999, when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink inspired them to a 3-1 win at the Santiago Bernabéu. But their fans could hardly enjoy that too much in retrospect as it came in the middle of a miserable season which saw Atleti relegated to the Segunda.

It had taken them a long time to get back to a position where competing for honours was the norm, but now, under the guidance of Diego Simeone, they were ready. 

The final, brought forward to a Friday night to avoid a clash with – no joke – the Eurovision Song Contest, was a heated contest. 13 players from each side were booked and both finished with ten men.

Yet things had started off much as expected, a 13th minute Mesut Özil corner was met by a typically towering header from Cristiano Ronaldo to put Real Madrid in front. They were going for an eleventh successive win against Atlético and based on the early stages everything was going according to plan. 

That was until Falcao picked up the ball in the middle and drove forward. His movement drew the white shirted defenders towards him, freeing up space for Diego Costa to exploit. After numerous loan spells and recovering from a serious knee injury, 2012/13 was the season where Costa really made a name for himself at the Vicente Calderón and his equalising goal in this game was a major milestone in his development into a top-class forward.

It’s probably true to say that Atlético were more than a little bit fortunate to stay level. Özil, Benzema and Ronaldo all hit the woodwork in the second half and as their frustrations grew, tempers became frayed. Predictably Mourinho was the first to crack, given his marching orders for arguing with the referee.

The game moved on into extra-time and had its defining moment in the 98th minute. Koke’s cross picked out Miranda and the Brazilian defender guided the ball into the roof of the net and sent the 30,000 Atleti fans who had taken over the north end of the stadium into raptures.

There was still time for more drama, Ronaldo was sent off for a petulant kick aimed at Gabi before the Atlético skipper earned a second booking himself, for blocking a quick free kick as the game entered its final moments. 

The impact of this final can’t really be underestimated. More than any other game, it helped Atlético shed their tag of El Pupas, the jinxed ones. 

They were now a force to be reckoned with. Winning the league and reaching the Champions League Final the following season underlined that. Seven years on from the cup win, they are firmly established in Europe’s elite, they’re considered title contenders every year. And without this victory as a catalyst, that might not be the case.

Andrew Gillan

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