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Leg 1
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Atletico Madrid battle against adversity vs. Arsenal: Four times Simeone's men have done it

Adversity tends to bring out the best in Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid, who have battled fearlessly against football and financial logic throughout his six seasons in charge of the club.

Holding Arsenal to a 1-1 draw in the Europa League on Thursday night, despite being down to 10 men for 80 minutes after the sending off of Sime Vrsaljko, was not the first time that Atletico have fought against the odds. Here are four more.

1. The Copa del Rey final: 2013

Atletico had famously gone over 14 years without a derbi win before the 2013 Copa del Rey final at Real Madrid. They had lost 4-1 at their neighbours' stadium earlier that season in La Liga, and it was no surprise when Cristiano Ronaldo was allowed a free header to score at a corner with just 14 minutes gone.

But Atletico did not fold this time. Radamel Falcao set up Diego Costa to fire in the equaliser 10 minutes before half-time. Still Jose Mourinho's Madrid pressed and pressed -- Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema hit the post, Juanfran cleared off the line from Ozil, and Ronaldo's clever free kick also bounced back off the woodwork.

The tension was too much for Mourinho, who was sent to the stands in what was to be his last game as Real Madrid coach.

And, in extra-time, Atletico centreback Miranda nipped ahead of goalkeeper Diego Lopez to glance Koke's superb cross to the net. Atletico keeper Thibaut Courtois had to make two spectacular saves to keep his side ahead, before Ronaldo was sent off for kicking Atletico captain Gabi. But Atletico held on for victory.

2. Winning La Liga on the final day at Camp Nou: 2014

Barcelona had a poor 2013-14 season but still just needed a home victory over Atletico on the final day to take the title; Diego Simeone's side just needed to avoid defeat.

Atletico were limping towards the end of the campaign, and it looked even worse when their two most important attackers, Arda Turan and Diego Costa, both left injured within the opening 15 minutes.

Barca looked set for the title just past the hour mark when Alexis Sanchez whacked an unstoppable volley past a stunned Courtois from a tight angle. However Atletico emerged from half-time with a fierce determination to change things. David Villa hit the post, before Gabi's corner was met by a flying Diego Godin and suddenly they were back top of the table.

Barca cranked things up: Lionel Messi had a goal correctly ruled out for offside, while surprise subs Xavi Hernandez and Neymar were sent on, but Godin and company held out. Camp Nou applauded the opposition on the final whistle, acknowledging that Atletico's first La Liga trophy in 18 years had been deservedly won in the most difficult way possible.

3. Torres' red card at Camp Nou: 2016

Two years later Atletico were back at Camp Nou for a Champions League quarterfinal first leg. Barca were big favourites again -- heading apparently inexorably for a back to back treble -- but Fernando Torres put the visitors ahead against the run of play.

A fired up Torres then went into self-destruct mode and picked up two quick and senseless yellow cards, leaving his team with 10 men with an hour remaining. Atletico were furthered angered as Barca striker Luis Suarez avoided a red card himself, before scoring twice in the second half to give his team an advantage for the second leg.

But a heaving Vicente Calderon made a huge difference in the return, as Atletico put in maybe the most complete performance of Simeone's time in charge. Antoine Griezmann's first half header and second half penalty, as well as a typically resolute defence performance, sent them through to the semis.

4. Penalty drama in Munich: 2016

Champions League favourites Bayern Munich were waiting in semifinals and, even though Pep Guardiola's side dominated possession through the first leg at the Calderon, Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez's solo strike on 11 minutes was the game's only goal.

Things seemed to be falling Bayern's way in the return when Xabi Alonso's early free-kick was deflected past visiting goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Then a crazy challenge from Jose Maria Gimenez gave away a penalty, but Oblak saved from Thomas Muller.

Simeone made a brave substitution at the break, sending on another attacker in Yannick Carrasco, and Griezmann soon scored a huge away goal on the counter. Bayern came again though, with Robert Lewandowski heading the teams level on aggregate.

There was more drama with Torres winning and missing a late penalty, and Simeone slapping a member of his own club's backroom staff for being too slow to make a substitution in added time.

On Thursday Griezmann suggested this Bayern trip had been the most difficult of all Atletico's backs-to-the-wall performances during his time at the club. "I found it worse in Bayern in the semifinal away, worse than today," he said. "Today we were with 10, but Bayern were much superior to us."

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan


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