Atlético Madrid Ends Champions League Hopes After Draw over Real Sociedad
It was always an uphill battle at this stage in the season, but Atlético Madrid effectively managed to end any shot at a Champions League qualification after picking up a draw against Real Sociedad.
The entire season has been a story of dropped points in La Liga for Atlético Madrid, and that certainly has to be the headline again today.
Not to be too harsh, but the first 45 minutes were absolutely dreadful, especially for Atlético Madrid. They didn't manage a single shot on goal. Real Sociedad weren't much better themselves.
It was a surprising showing for a club that still should have maintained hopes for the Champions League.
The game did pick up a bit in the second half, though.
Real Sociedad should have struck first when, in the 48th minute, David Zurutuza sent in a great low cross for Imanol Agirretxe. Agirretxe fluffed the shot from about three yards out and sent it high and wide.
Atlético struck just six minutes later when Gabi scored with a shot from a little outside the box. It was a goal pretty much out of nowhere.
Following the goal, there looked to be a little more spark in the Atlético attack. They put together some nice moves, but nothing substantial.
That all changed when it was Gabi again at the center of attention. He was sent off in the 73rd minute for a second bookable offense. It was the right call as he went in with a high boot on a Sociedad player.
The sending off put to an end much of Atlético's impetus to go on the attack. It's always a worry as a supporter when your club goes down, but Diego Simeone's team has usually been very organized at the back.
However, that organization seemed to break down in injury time.
In the 91st minute, Xabi Prieto sent in a corner which was headed down into the box. Joseba Llorente got a touch and the ball bounced to Carlos Vela, who put it away for the equalizer.
The blame should fall squarely on Thibaut Courtois. He didn't have much to do in the match, but in the moment he was most needed, he sat on his line. The ball was sitting in front of him for a while, but Courtois looked as if he was waiting for one of his defenders to clear it out.
Chalk it up to inexperience possibly because the Belgian keeper has been one of the club's best players this season.
Atlético Madrid was sitting in a good position in relation to the clubs immediately above them in the table.
Their match kicked off before either Levante or Malaga's. Three points against Sociedad would have put Atleti level on points with Levante and three behind Malaga. Now the gap is three and six points, respectively.
Atlético Madrid are still holding on to Europa League qualification, but that is a bitter pill to swallow after the Champions League was within reach.
They host Malaga on Saturday with the big Europa League final against Athletic Bilbao the following Wednesday.
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