Football

Diego Simeone's tactics were exposed during the Champions League final

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Diego Simeone cut a frustrated but defiant figure at the end of a bruising all-Madrid Champions League final on Saturday.

The Argentinian's frustrations stemmed from referee Björn Kuipers' decision to play five minutes of injury time, during which Sergio Ramos headed home a late, heartbreaking equaliser to take the game into extra-time.

He would also undoubtedly have been frustrated that he got his tactics wrong for the game. In a wonderful season for Atlético, Simeone's management has so often been the difference in big games. However, several tactical decisions went awry for Atlético over the weekend, allowing Real to stroll home in extra-time. 

The decision to start Diego Costa was baffling. After he injured his hamstring against Barcelona just seven days previously, Costa showed admirable bravery to attempt to play, but in this instance Simeone needed to show both authority and clarity and accept the striker needed to be left out.

The fact that Costa only lasted nine minutes showed he was nowhere near being match-fit, and crucially denied Simeone a substitution later in the game. Cristian Rodríguez - the pacy Uruguayan - would have made a huge impact and would also have been able to stretch Real as the game wore on.

Atlético's tactics were clear from the start. Real Madrid were never allowed to get into their flow, constantly hacked down and halted by niggling fouls. Simeone's men showed little desire to keep the ball, instead attempting to hit Real on the counter-attack.

Real struggled to create space in the middle of the park, with Sami Khedira in particular looking sluggish. Atlético got their rewards for their harrowing and hassling throughout the pitch in the 36th minute, when David Villa forced the imperious Raphaël Varane into conceding a corner. Real failed to clear their lines and Diego Godín leapt above Khedira to loop a header past a ludicrously stranded Iker Casillas.

Round one to Atlético and going into half-time Simeone would have been satisfied with his side's carefully orchestrated performance. However, with one substitution already down and Atlético picking up yellow cards at a rate of knots due to their combative style, Raúl Garcia had to be withdrawn for José Sosa in the 66th minute. This meant Atlético lost their rigidity and the arrival of Marcelo and Isco stretched the game, leaving Simeone's side visibly weary.

The game had to be won within 90 minutes, and in fairness to Simeone he was minutes away from masterminding another victory. Ramos' equaliser left no real way back for Atlético.

With three substitutions made, Atlético had set their stall out. There was no way Atlético could sustain their pressing defence through extra-time and Real's constant pressure eventually told, although the harshness of the scoreline was undeserved. 

Whilst Carlo Ancelotti was able to alter his tactics throughout the match, Simeone was hamstrung by Costa's injury. It should be noted that Real's attempts to cross the ball into the Atlético box were repeatedly repelled and it was only when Isco and Modric got on the ball that Real were able to turn the screws.

This match should not take away from a fantastic season for Atlético. If Simeone is able to keep his side together, there is no reason why they can't become a force in Europe. Even if Costa goes, with the history of Atlético strikers and with Simeone's emphasis on the team over individuals, they can overcome his exit.

Simeone got his tactics wrong, but the fact that it took 93 minutes of football for Real to score shows how fine the margins between success and failure are at the top. For Real, La Decima means awkward conversations surrounding Ancelotti's future can be avoided, and the Italian is free to enjoy his wedding.     

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Topics:
Football
UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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