Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone claimed Fernando Torres’s double to take the La Liga champions into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey at Real Madrid’s expense had proved the former Chelsea striker’s critics wrong. Torres scored in the first minute of each half to ruin Cristiano Ronaldo’s FIFA Ballon d’Or celebrations as the Cup holders were dumped out 4-2 on aggregate after a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“When he came out of the academy he was a boy, too young for everything that happened then but he still responded well,” said Simeone.
“He went away, grew up and now is a man. I am very happy for him. In games like this he responds as he did. The fans are happy and his arrival has helped us, despite some people’s doubts.”
Torres was only handed a start due to an illness suffered by Mario Mandzukic in the day before the game, but his inclusion proved to be inspired as he slotted home from Antoine Griezmann’s cross after just 46 seconds. Sergio Ramos levelled before the break, but Griezmann and Torres combined once more at the start of the second period before Ronaldo salvaged a draw on the night for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Simeone admitted such an early blow helped to sap the home side’s energy, but refused to accept Atletico now have the Indian sign over their neighbours after going five derbies unbeaten so far this season.
“Such an early goal changed the rhythm of the game. It wasn’t in the plan. Every time we face Madrid we face an extremely strong team. They are the best team in the world, they just won the Club World Cup and the Champions League.”
Despite scoring his first two goals at the Bernabeu, Torres refused to hail his performance as his best in an Atletico shirt and reserved special mention for the part played by Griezmann in setting up both goals. ”
To play at the Bernabeu is difficult. As soon as they equalised they could see a chance to go through, but the second goal allowed us closer to the finish line.
“We want to keep advancing in all competitions. We need to enjoy this moment because we are happy. It was a great game, but it is not my happiest day in Atletico shirt. I finished well today but it is thanks to Griezmann.”