Sevilla coach Míchel said that after the "fateful" minute in the first half when the referee rightly blew for a penalty to Atlético Madrid and wrongly red-carded Federico Fazio the match was effectively over. Wrongly red-carded? According to the letter of the law, Iglesias Villanueva was justified in condemning the Sevilla defender to an early bath as Radamel Falcao was about to try to take advantage of an "obvious goal-scoring opportunity." But any neutral onlooker would agree that the combination of a red card and a penalty so early in the game was likely to spoil the contest. Fazio's foul was more born of desperation, as he tried to hook his leg around those of the poised Colombian, than of cynical design. With more defenders in the general vicinity, the ref could have used his discretion to restrict his punishment to yellow.
And when "El Tigre" Falcao blasted the spot kick home to ease the innate goal-scorer's growing itch since his last strike four weeks before, there was little doubt about the result. For a start, as Míchel also admitted, the visiting team was poor, especially compared to the devastating form it had shown in the previous weekend's Seville derby in which it dealt a 5-1 thrashing to city rival Real Betis — which bounced back to defeat Real Madrid on Saturday. But also because Diego Simeone's Atlético is nothing if not extremely competitive, doing its level best to banish the chaotic label the capital's second-ranked club has enjoyed for many a year.
Simeone's taste in feisty midfielders may not always provide a footballing feast, but with Falcao's firepower, the roving Diego Costa up front and a forward-bound pair of full backs in Juanfran and Filipe Luis, there are attacking options to complement the team's defensive balance. Thirteen games in the Liga standings don't lie, showing only Atlético is giving chase to Barcelona with 11 wins and a tie against just one defeat — three points off the Catalans.
After an own goal by Emir Spahic, it was Costa, deep in the right channel, who provided Atlético's third of the night, his chip to the far post deliciously met on the half-volley by Koke. The final score of 4-0 was sealed by João Miranda at the end of a listless second half, with home fans starting to dream of this Saturday's chance to turn a solid start to the season into something spectacular and defeat Real Madrid for the first time since 1999.
If Atlético is on the verge of greatness, Sunday's late fixture provided a reminder of what the real thing looks like. Leo Messi and Andrés Iniesta led Barcelona to a 0-4 win at Levante, all four strikes coming in a breathtaking second half display.