After an early own goal, United adapt quickly against a disorganised and tragic comedy of errors from Athletico.
Home Grown Jihadis United: 3
Athletico Spain: 2
Play started on the Wednesday evening with an own goal by Jihadis United -an explosion in the house they were using as a bomb factory. The explosion killed two of their players and wounded a third.
Police attended the scene and somehow initially believed the explosion in the house containing an obvious bomb factory was caused by a gas leak.
This was a spectacular failure, which lead to a delay in Athletico's management realising there was a match on, and was the first of many failures on all levels over the course of the fixture.
In most cases, this one included, attending a call to an explosion and realising you're in a bomb factory is about a difficult as attending a sports fixture in a building and realising you're at an ice rink.
If you're in a large building containing a lot of Canadians with sticks and ice-skates, a large rectangle of ice with two goals surrounded by seats, and a zamboni driving about. You're probably at an ice rink.
If you're in house where there's been an explosion, there are bearded Moroccans, Jihadist materials, an improbably large number of gas canisters (120) bomb-making materials and a bomb... Forrest Gump after the tragic loss of his eyesight could tell you you're probably in a bomb factory.
Unfortunately Athletico then equalised with an own-goal of their own, when they accidentally set off a second explosion at the address, injuring police and firefighters.
After the second explosion on the Wednesday night came a period of inactivity for both teams until the following evening.
In this time, despite two explosions, Athletico Spain's management seemingly continued to be completely unaware of what was going on, and are not believed to have even raised their terror alert level from four to five (its highest level)
To understand just how profound this failure on the part of Athletico's defence and manager is, we have to go back a little bit. The CIA is reported to have warned the Catalan Police two months earlier that they had information pointing to a possible terrorist attack that summer in Barcelona, and even specifically mentioned Las Ramblas as a possible target.
After this and as Jihadis United were in the middle of an extremely busy bombing season, having played in London, Stockholm, Berlin and Nice. The Police made the sensible suggestion of placing security bollards at the entrance to Las Ramblas. These would certainly have proved useful against the type of vehicle attack seen at the four previously mentioned cities.
Unfortunately, the Mayor of Barcelona denied this request.
“The perpetrators of the attack wanted to kill and if they were unable to enter Las Ramblas, they would have done so elsewhere,” she said after the attacks. Presumably cyclists shouldn't wear helmets as in a traffic accident, they might scrape their knees.
The lull in play ended on the Thursday evening once United had recovered from the setback of losing their bomb factory and the derailment of their original plan, believed to be a vehicle born explosive attack on Sagrada Familia. After some ad hoc planning, they launched two vaguely co-ordinated attempts on goal.
22 year-old Jihadis striker Younes Abouyaaqoub drove a van through Las Ramblas injuring and killing tourists, his attack only stopping once the air bag in his van had deployed and his engine cut out. At which point he stabbed a motorist to death and made his escape in his car. It is believed he was still driving the car when it rammed a police barricade two hours later, injuring a policeman. He then escaped once again.
Later that night, five other United players bought knives and an axe at a shop in Cambrils. They then drove a car into a crowd of people, flipped their car over and emerged from it brandishing their knives and wearing fake suicide vests. At this point the Spanish police stepped up to the mark, an unnamed officer neatly tackling all five players with a sensational bit of shooting, killing four on the spot and mortally wounding the fifth. Most Valuable Player.
With Athletico Spain completely woken up, they began the methodical job of hunting down Abouyaaqoub, the van driver who had been dashing around Athletico's half unchecked. After a sighting by a member of the public three days later in a town 40km from Barcelona, their defenders swarmed around him and brought him down. They took no chances and shot him dead, appropriate, given that he was wearing what turned out to be a fake suicide vest. They went on to arrest four other suspects, with two being later released.
All in all it was an eventful and chaotic match with unforced errors on both sides, though more from Athletico than United. It was Jihadis United who set the pace throughout and proved the more adaptive to events as they played out.
Athletico began by utterly failing to detect the large squad and ambitious plan that United had assembled under their noses. They continued to make errors at all levels and were eventually redeemed slightly by some solid play by a few individuals and got lucky when United's early own goal disrupted their plans.
Ahead of their next game, some serious questions need to be asked at all levels of Athletico Spain's franchise.
Fortunately for everyone else in the league, Jihadis United struggle to build up experience in their squad given the fact that their players only play once. With any luck the rookie players still on United's bench will be themselves unable to learn any lessons from this showing.