“Never stop believing” is the motto of an Atlético de Madrid team that was, once again, faithful to its idiosyncrasy. He was resurrected in time to sign a comeback for history and beat Real Madrid on penalties in the final of the Copa de la Reina played at the Butarque stadium. The whites struck first on two occasions with goals from set pieces by Toletti and Ivana, but the rojiblancas, who never gave up, subscribed to the heroic effort and came back through Lucía Moral and Estefanía Banini. The mattresses were more accurate from eleven meters and managed to lift their second Queen’s Cup six years after the first.
The 41st edition of the Copa de la Reina measured two teams with different histories. Atlético, with the aim of repeating the feat of 2016. Madrid, with the illusion of lifting the first title in its short history in the elite of women’s football.
The match began with the tension of a historic final for both teams. The mattress maker Estefanía Banini enjoyed the first great chance of the contest, but Misa, as usual, thwarted the dangerous shot. Madrid insistently sought the unbridled speed of Linda Caicedo, although the mattress defense knew how to control the Colombian’s attacks.
In a close match, it was going to be the set piece that broke the initial equality. Toletti’s unappealable header after a corner kick to put White ahead in the final. An angled headshot that made Lola Gallardo’s stretch useless.
Madrid gained control after the goal from the French midfielder and began to dominate the game more, punishing the rojiblancas in the left sector with Olga and Caicedo, especially damaging.
Atlético put the weight of their attack in transitions, with which they enjoyed clear opportunities. Ajibade had it in his boots after drawing a perfect diagonal, but again Misa prevailed with a good save. With the same feeling with which the first half ended, the second began. Madrid, better planted and dominating against an Atlético that continued to damage space.
Caroline Weir, discreet during the first part, began to carburete. She dodged three rivals and only Lola Gallardo avoided a second goal for the whites that would end up coming minutes later. The rain began to fall heavily in Butarque and with it the speed of the game increased. Madrid felt more comfortable with a faster pitch and Atlético hardly bothered Misa after the break.
The white team counted, once again, with the prominence of the stopped ball in the second goal. Measured ball from Linda Caicedo, which confirms the good sensations shown in her short journey with the white shirt, and tight shot from Ivana, who surpassed Lola Gallardo. Madrid became strong from above and extended the advantage from the heights in the grand final.
After the second white goal, the game entered a phase of intense calm. Madrid had him on track and Atlético began their attacks far from Misa’s goal. However, the colchoneras did not cease in their efforts to come back from the final, and once again Ajibade had a clear option that the Madrid defense rejected. Manolo Cano stirred up the hornet’s nest and brought on Lucía Moral and Eva María, both forwards, to turn the game into the white area.
And he hit the key fully. Moral scored 2-1 with five minutes remaining and gave wings to the mattresses. When Madrid was close to its first Copa de la Reina, the referee pointed out a free kick on the edge of the area and Banini was in charge of scoring, with a dry shot from the squad, the best goal of the Final Four to force extra time in a vibrant ending.
Far from accusing the blow, Madrid rallied and threatened Lola Gallardo’s goal in the first half of extra time. However, fatigue began to take its toll and they no longer set foot in the rival area as in regulation time. Neither of the two teams wanted to make mistakes without the option to react and they met in the penalty shootout.
The chance of the eleven meters wanted Atlético to close the historic comeback with victory. The misses by Olga and Svava gave women’s Atlético de Madrid their second Copa de la Reina in one of the most vibrant finals of the cup tournament.
The final of the Copa de la Reina was also historic for being the first time that a women’s football match had video arbitration. The VAR has been installed for years and giving rise to talk in men’s football, and its implementation for the first time in this women’s derby represents a great step forward in the task of professionalizing the Spanish collegiates.
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