One of the things we’ve (and by that I mean me) have been most excited about is getting to some soccer games while traveling though Europe. After a fantastic experience watching Chelsea’s home opener at Stamford Bridge (here if you missed it), we finally had a second chance in Madrid. As most people spent the day in anticipation of the upcoming el Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, we instead took the opportunity to see one of the top 10 teams in Europe play, Atletico Madrid.
Often overshadowed by the powerhouse of Real Madrid and their Galacticos, Atletico Madrid have quietly put together 2 Europa League and 2 European SuperCup titles in the past three years, and currently sit joint-first with Barcelona in La Liga. Oh, and they also smashed my beloved Chelsea 4-1 just a couple of weeks ago.
|How do they get those banners made? (via)|
We went in the morning to the ticket office at the Estadio Vicente Calderón and were able to purchase two tickets (50 bucks each) for their Europa League match against FC Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic.
Later in the evening, as the game time approached, we boarded the metro and joined the droves of red-and-white clad supporters as the sang and chanted their way to the stadium. As the stadium does not really have a vending area, all of the vendors set up their stands outside the stadium, creating a unique setting I’ve not experienced before a game. It felt like a huge tailgate party with tens of thousands of Atleti fans eating sandwiches, drinking beer, and discussing the upcoming game.
|Vendors sold everything from scarves to spitz! (via)|
When it was time to enter, we made our way into the stadium and managed to find our seats with little problem. The stadium is a massive open-air construction and we were right on the halfway line. The stadium wasn’t quite full but it was still a formidable atmosphere when the game started.
|Inside the stadium|
The game itself was more of a chess-match than anything else – Plzen did a textbook job of sitting back and absorbing the pressure, and the Rojiblancos did their best to try and generate a scoring chance. The game looked more and more like it would end in a draw, with every passing second only serving to further aggravate the loyal supporters who were frothing at the mouth for a goal. And then in the 93rd minute, when all hope seemed lost, a screaming 25-yard full volley by the man of the match Cristian Rodriguez changed it all. Atletico grabbed their astounding 15th straight Europa League win and moved into sole position at the top of their group.
|Just before kickoff.|
The atmosphere was a joyous one as the fans sang and danced in their seats after the final whistle sounded.