Entering the second leg of the Spanish Supercup game against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone was clear in how his team needed to approach the game in order to pull off the upset. Simeone made it clear that if his team were to be solid defensively and do its best to prevent Barcelona from playing with any sustained attacking rhythm, when the opportunity presented itself, to counter and convert a goal(s), that would allow them to pull off the upset.
After the first 90 minutes played, the tie was 1-1 and Barcelona held the advantage with coach Gerardo Martino deciding to, for the first time this season, start Lionel Messi and Neymar at the same time in his starting eleven. The clear intent was to begin developing chemistry between the two superstars and to attack and win the Supercup without much hassle. Whatever plans Barcelona had were thwarted, however, by Atletico Madrid, who went out and executed it’s gameplan in the first 45 minutes.
Despite easily winning the possession battle, and having its two superstars playing together, Barcelona were unable to sustain any attacking threats during the first half as Atletico Madrid prevented them from doing so by pressuring and being physical with them. In addition, the Messi-Neymar partnership failed to shine as both players clearly looked out of sync due to lack of practice and game time playing together, and Messi still showed signs of still being hobbled by his recent thigh injury.
As neither team created any real scoring chances in the first half and the game was playing out just like Atletico had game planned, this offered Atletico and Simeone the chance to take a shot and attack Barcelona. Early in the second half, Atletico came close to taking the lead as Arda Turan saw his point-blank shot at goal superbly saved by Victor Valdes to maintain the scoreline 0-0. After this chance, Atletico would fail to offer up any more clear scoring chances at goal as it’s insistence at sticking to the gameplan resulted in them missing an opportunity to be brave and step up its attack on the Barcelona defense.
In the end, Barcelona would hold on and take the 2013 edition of the Spanish Supercup thanks to Neymar’s goal scored in the first leg, which gave them the away goal advantage headed into this second leg, and it was the goal that ended up giving Barcelona it’s 11th Spanish Supercup in team history. While Barcelona will feel relieved that despite not playing well, it once again won another trophy, and Atletico Madrid will feel like it could have done more to try and win.
The fact of the matter is that while Madrid executed its gameplan and did so pretty successfully, if Simeone would have shown and taken bolder action with his substitutions, his team could have produced and exhibited a more attacking emphasis that could have seen them pull off the upset over Barcelona. Instead, they will be left with giving a good account of themselves and left to wonder what could have been had they been more aggressive in the final 45 minutes of the tie.